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Finishing Touches

County targeting mid-December opening for Dulles South public safety center.

By the end of the year, Dulles South fire and rescue personnel will no longer have to worry about strong winds or inclement weather and the county's Sheriff's deputies will have a new place to call home.

Construction is almost complete on the approximately 23,000-square-foot facility that will house both the Dulles South Fire and Rescue station and a Sheriff's Office substation.

Through the month of November the facility will be inspected and any final adjustments will be made. The county is hoping personnel will be ready to move in by the middle of December.

The ground of the 4.7-acre site was broken in September 2005, following an $5.9 million construction contract, which was awarded to Milestone Construction Services of Sterling. In November 1999 voters approved the sale of general obligations bonds to fund the design, construction and equipping of the center.

"This facility is really needed down here," Supervisor Stephen Snow (R-Dulles) said.

WHEN IT IS opened the facility will be the first of its kind in the county, housing both Sheriff's Office and Fire and Rescue personnel. Fire and Rescue will be housed in 12,000 square feet and the Sheriff's substation will take up the other 11,000 square feet.

When the facility is opened the fire and rescue station will have a fire truck and an ambulance," Dawley said.

"In the budget the Board of Supervisors also approved the staffing and purchasing of a ladder truck," Dawley said.

Since its inception the Dulles South station has been partnered with the Arcola/Pleasant Valley Volunteer Fire and Rescue station, something Dawley said will continue after the new building is open.

Dawley said the staff for the new ladder truck should be trained in the academy class this January, bringing the total staff for the new station to between eight and 10 members per shift.

"The station will be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he said.

SINCE THE WINTER of 2003, the Dulles South Fire and Rescue station has been operating out of a temporary, tented facility on Defender Drive off of South Riding Boulevard. The site includes leased modular trailers for personnel to live and sleep in. While the situation has not been ideal, Howard Dawley, deputy chief for planning and administration, said it has served its purpose.

"It enabled us to get into that community and do what we needed to do to serve the people down there," he said.

Snow said the type of equipment the fire station will have is needed for the residents and the types of community being developed in Dulles South.

"We will finally have a facility that's going to have a quick response time," he said. "The longer ladder is really needed down here where we have the taller townhomes."

At the end of March four townhouses in South Riding were severely damaged after a fire broke out in one of the homes. Without a large ladder truck, Snow said, the situation could have been much worse.

"I really want to utilize this for the citizens," he said. "Having everyone right down there will be a huge help."

FOR THE SUBSTATION, Kraig Troxell, the Sheriff's Office spokesperson, said they are envisioning something similar to the plans for the new substation in Cascades.

"It will have all the same [amenities] to it, but on a smaller scale since we will have less room," he said.

The substation will have a complementary records department so deputies could look up accident reports, do background or criminal checks and fingerprinting without having to go in Leesburg. The Sheriff's Office would like for people who have warrants out on them to be able to turn themselves in at the substations, Troxell said.

In addition, the substation will also have holding cells for suspects awaiting transfer to the main jail in Leesburg. The building will be outfitted with an intoxilyzer, for testing suspects‚ blood alcohol content.

"It will just make it easier for deputies to stay in their sector where they will be needed," he said.

ONE ASPECT OF the new building will be different from anything in any of the current fire stations or planned substations. Approximately 840 square feet will be used for a community meeting room.

"People would be able to use it for civic organizations, community policing, CPR classes, almost anything," Dawley said.

Dawley said he hopes the meeting room will also help turn the Dulles South center into a focal point of the community.

"Historically, it is shown that the fire house was the place that people would go to meet," he said. "The commitment to service doesn't begin and end with the 911 call."

Snow also said he hopes to have a place in the center for a small office where he can meet with residents face to face. The South Riding office would give him the opportunity to really connect with residents and hear their thoughts and concerns. He added that the permanent home will also help with the influence the public safety personnel will have on residents.

"I think you'll expand their effectiveness and impact when you give them this sense of place and sense of home," he said.