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County Pitches New Fire Station

Fairfax County looks to replace Herndon’s fire house, the county’s oldest.

Fairfax County officials have increased their push to work with Herndon officials and the community to find a new location in town for a larger, modernized fire station ahead of a countywide bond referendum in November of next year.

At a June 19 televised work session, representatives from Fairfax County expressed the need to find space for a "more versatile" fire station to replace Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Station Four, located in downtown Herndon on the 600 block of Spring Street. At nearly 60-years-old, it is the county’s oldest, according to fire officials.

"I think the purpose of the meeting was to emphasize the need to find a final site" for the station, said Fairfax County supervisor Joan DuBois, who represents the Dranesville district and the Town of Herndon.

The greatest focus needs to be placed on determining what sites are viable in the town and working to choose and approve a location so that the necessary funding can be included in the 2008 collective bond referendum, DuBois said.

OFFICIALS HAVE been pressing the need for a new fire station in Herndon for more than 10 years, according to DuBois.

With call volume that has increased nearly 50 percent in the last 15 years, Herndon’s station four needs an upgrade to increase flexibility in rescue equipment and maneuverability for responding fire fighters, according to Fairfax County Fire and Rescue assistant chief Daryl Louder. While the area residents have not seen a decrease in efficiency and service to the region as a result of the outdated station, a change needs to be made to modernize the equipment available to the area, Louder said.

"If we look at our critical infrastructure, we see a school that has outgrown its capacity, we see roads that have outgrown their capacity," he said, "and this is just one more of those things, we need to improve the capacities of this station."

Louder added that when the county looked to place a new heavy rescue unit in northwestern Fairfax County three years ago, Herndon was chosen as strategically preferential, but could not handle the size of the equipment.

"Due to its size, it could not be equipped with what we needed for that unit," Louder said. "That does have an effect on not just Herndon," but the entire region.

The most pressing need with a new station is a four-bay garage with dual-sided entrances, allowing for double the garage and equipment space and more flexibility than the current station, Louder said.

THE LARGEST PROBLEM has been finding a site that can meet the requirements of the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue officials while still being both cost effective and amenable to the community, according to Teresa Lepe, Fairfax County project manager for building design, who is in charge of the planning of a new Herndon station.

A new site must be located within a one-mile radius of the current fire station, according to Louder. That site would preferably be four to five acres in total size, allowing for a two-acre building and parking area.

The current building measures slightly more than a quarter of an acre in size, according to Fairfax County.

Finding a new site in Herndon that will fit the site perfectly with little objection from the community has proved to be a challenge over the years, Lepe said.

"It’s hard, Herndon’s a small area," she said. "Herdon’s pretty developed so there’s not a whole lot of sites available … we’re going to have to be flexible," when searching for a site.

OVER THE MORE than 10 years that the county has been searching for a new site, more than 30 possible locations have been evaluated and rejected for various reasons, including functional viability, size, price and community objection, Lepe said.

Until a site is chosen, official plans and estimated price tags cannot be determined, she added.

"You just can’t look and say ‘Oh, this is the size and this is what we need,’" Lepe said. "It really depends on the site’s individual requirements."

One of those sites was Stanton Park, located on the 900 block of 3 rd Street off the northwest segment of Herndon Parkway. After a "community uproar," that site has been ruled out as a "last resort" by DuBois.

"There are no sites that anyone can totally agree on, and the county doesn’t want to spend oodles of money" buying a piece of property, DuBois said. "There might not be a perfect site out there. After more than 10 years [of searching] I think we would have found one by now."

HERNDON TOWN officials’ authority rests on approving the county’s land-use proposal for a new station. At the June 19 meeting, officials decided that Herndon staff, Town Council and Planning Commission members would work with county fire and building officials to develop a list of all remaining potential sites to be discussed with the community.

Other sites that have been discussed are a property on the corner of Grant Street and Grove Street and a Fairfax County bus station on Spring Street, according to Mayor Steve DeBenedittis, who said that he supports a county effort to put a new fire station in Herndon.

"I think there are a lot of potential sites in town. And if we’re flexible as we’re looking around, we’ll find something that works best for the entire community," DeBenedittis said. "I just want to make sure that it’s in a good place that’s both good for the fire department as well as for the residents."

Fire officials should look to the transportation flexibility of Herndon Parkway for a site, said Town Council member Charlie Waddell.

"I would like to explore buildings [along Herndon Parkway] that are for sale that could be renovated," he said. Herndon Parkway "is an ideal location … you can use that to get quickly to any part of town."

DuBois said that she is optimistic that a site will be chosen in the coming months.

"It may not be perfect for everybody, but I think we need to put some positive emphasis on this and get the community working together and we will come up with something," she said. "It’s the perfect time to find a site and frankly we can’t wait another 10 years."