GVFR closes on Main Street property

by Quinton Sheppard - Posted on Sep 04, 2019 - 01:27 PM

The Gloucester Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad, Inc., officially closed on the Tri-County Furniture Store building, former Calvin Hotel and adjacent properties last Wednesday from Tri-County, LC, for approximately $1.1 million, fire chief J.D. Clements has confirmed. 

The property has been in the department’s sights for the past several months for a new fire station to be constructed there, prompting it to place a contingency contract on the property earlier this summer. Though a major milestone has been reached, Clements said it may not be until the first quarter of next year before GVFRS would have firm plans as to its future on Main Street.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions that must be addressed before the department can firm up any plans as to how it will utilize the space,” said Clements. “We still don’t know. There are still a lot of issues to overcome.”

Fundraising is one of the main issues that must be addressed before the department proceeds with building a new Station #1. Earlier in the summer, when Clements came before the Gloucester Board of Supervisors to discuss the department’s plans for the future, he said an estimated cost of constructing a brand-new facility is approximately $10.1 million. 

At that time, the organization had plans to put the current Station #1, located at the corner of Main Street and Walker Avenue, and its property up for sale to help cover the construction costs associated with the new building—adding that the sale of the building could bolster economic development opportunity along Main Street.

The impetus for the planned move comes from the current Station #1’s lack of room for expansion and that it is currently not up to National Fire Protection Association Standards. According to Clements, there is currently not enough space for a medic unit to be properly cleaned inside of its bay and moving it outside the secure facility to clean poses a safety risk for the apparatus and the medics.

Also, Clements cited that there is not adequate ventilation in the facility to rid the building of exhaust fumes from apparatus coming in and out. There is also no additional room for storage of equipment, resulting in a lot of items to be lined up along walls and stuck in corners.

Though a final decision on how the department may move forward is several months off, Clements assured the public that the department is being as upfront as possible. “We’re not trying to conceal anything,” he said. “There are just a lot of unknowns at this stage.”

The potential move of the fire station prompted some controversy among citizens and community groups, with some groups fully supporting the organization’s move down Main Street and others questioning whether GVFRS should move off the corridor. However, Clements has maintained that the department has a strong desire to remain in town.

“It’s a good experience for us and provides opportunities for us to meet with the children and residents of the community,” he said.

As for the Tri-County Furniture Store, Clements said it is still in operation and that the current owners have a set amount of time in the contract before they have to vacate the premises.