Damage reduces usable space at Ladysmith fire station
Due to damage that can’t be repaired quickly, the Ladysmith Volunteer Fire Department can use only about half its building.
The second floor is unusable because of holes found in the floors, forcing members to cram onto the first level of the building. This, and similar issues with other volunteer stations around Caroline County, is why county officials are considering developing a policy about how they can financially help departments in need for major projects.
Last month, members of the Ladsymith station presented their situation to the Board of Supervisors and asked for about $150,000 for repairs. The work is too costly for the fire company to pay for itself. The Board said they would consider it, but made no promises.
The problems began in September, Ladysmith Chief Stephen Melson said in an interview. “We uncovered it and brought it to the attention of the county building inspector.”
The building, constructed in 1987, has some design issues, he said.
The building’s temporary state has not affected the station’s service, but it’s made for cramped quarters. The second floor was where overnight crews slept, and there was office space and storage, Melson said.
Each department is individually run and had constructed its own building.
But each department’s operations are paid for by the county. That includes electricity, insurance, fuel, equipment—“whatever it takes to make the fire departments go”—said Jason Loftus, the county’s fire and emergency medical services chief.
In the past, departments have asked the county for money, but in much smaller amounts.
“Where something is wrong with the building, a major repair, the county just hasn’t tackled those kinds of things,” Loftus said.
The reason for developing the policy is to be fair to each department. Loftus said he meets with each department monthly to keep up with issues each one is dealing with.
Melson said Ladysmith has divided its project into phases, with operations moving between floors as needed to make repairs.
Melson said they are in the process of obtaining bids for the work. The timeline is unclear, however.
“We would certainly like to start something and hopefully have it done by the end of the calendar year,” he said. “It all depends on funding.”
He said he has no complaints and is working with county officials. He’s also thankful for the 42 members and their attitudes.
“We have a lot of patient people who are flexible and willing to work around conditions,” he said. “We’re still providing the same level of service, but with 50 percent of the use of our building, which is exactly what it comes down to.”
The Board of Supervisors will likely discuss it at its next meeting, March 11.
Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413