2017-06-14 / Front Page

Ford wants fire company to take lead on building project

by Kate Shunney

The Great Cacapon Volunteer Fire Company houses their equipment in a metal four-bay building as plans continue for a permanent replacement for their fire hall. The Great Cacapon Volunteer Fire Company houses their equipment in a metal four-bay building as plans continue for a permanent replacement for their fire hall. Morgan County Commissioner Bob Ford asked county officials recently to consider a new direction in building a replacement Great Cacapon fire hall. That hall was gutted in a July 5 blaze last year.

Ford said last week he has been in talks with Great Cacapon Volunteer Fire Company chief Matt Grimley about the fire company, rather than the county, leading the building project.

The Morgan County Commission provided building insurance for the former fire hall, and will receive the insurance payout from the fire.

Ford told his fellow commissioners he wants the county to step out of the lead on the project.

He asked Commissioner Ken Reed and Commission President Joel Tuttle to “go along” with the idea of the Great Cacapon Volunteer Fire Company creating their new fire hall on their own land and building the structure under their own direction.

Ford said Chief Grimley has proposed adding onto a metal pole building the fire company built to house their equipment last fall. That pole building is located on fire company property on the opposite side of Spring Street, in an area known as The Grove.

Ford said he researched the history of the former fire hall, which was built in the late 1940’s. A private individual donated the land for the fire hall, and the deed for that lot was later put in the name of both the fire company and the Morgan County Commission.

Expansions of the building in the 1980s and 1990s were paid for by the fire company, said Ford.

“We carried the insurance on it because the property is in our name,” he said.

Ford has been urging county officials to remove fire and EMS equipment and property from the county’s insurance policy in recent years.

“We need to get out of the business with fire departments and rescue squads,” he said Wednesday.

Shifting the fire hall project to the fire company would lower the cost by $100,000, Ford argued.

If the structure is built under the County Commission’s ownership, the construction process must follow state laws regarding architectural and engineering services, and other requirements that would not apply to the fire company, said Ford.

County officials chose Thrasher Engineering as their preferred architect for the new fire hall last month. In drafting an agreement with the county, Thrasher estimated their services would cost $84,700. Ford said geotechnical services for the building site would cost $11,000 and a fire suppression (sprinkler) system would cost more than $270,000.

Insurance officials have told the county they will pay out $550,000 to build a replacement fire hall.

Ford said architect, geotechnical and sprinkler costs would eat up the majority of that insurance money, leaving less than $200,000 to prepare the lot and build the building.

“If it was a county building, we would have to go this route. We’re at the belief this isn’t going to be a county building, it’s going to be a Great Cacapon Volunteer Fire Company building,” Ford told Reed and Tuttle.

He proposed letting the fire company proceed with plans to add bays and meeting space to their metal building. The county could still act as a financial agent, paying construction invoices out of the insurance reimbursement, he said.

Ford said he wants Prosecuting Attorney Debra McLaughlin to review the legal aspects of the proposal.

“If we can’t, we’ll be stuck with $550,000 in a bank account we can’t build a building with,” said Ford.

Commissioners Reed and Tuttle said they would back the move to save unnecessary project costs if the Prosecutor says it’s legal.

When asked, county officials said the Great Cacapon fire company had not, to their knowledge, ever contributed to the cost of the fire hall’s building insurance.

They said paying the premiums was one way the county had contributed to fire and EMS services for residents.

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