ABINGDON, Va. — “At the end of the day,” as Washington County Administrator Jason Berry has a habit of saying, a new fire hall is slated to come to Green Cove.
It’s set to stand next to the trash dump collection station, not far from U.S. Highway 58.
And its purpose is to provide what county officials hope to be a more reliable source of fire and rescue protection for folks living “on the mountain.”
By the way, that’s what they call y’all living in the Green Cove section of Washington County — “on the mountain” — when making decisions down in Abingdon at the Washington County Board of Supervisors.
At the board’s Sept. 24 meeting, the supervisors voted to award an $188,783 contract to Wallberg Construction to build a concrete slab and post-frame building to be used as the Green Cove Emergency Service Facility.
Wallberg got the job after bids were solicited, and no one else bid on the project.
Constructing this facility follows the board’s decision earlier this summer to slash funding to the Mount Rogers Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad, located in adjacent Grayson County at Whitetop, Virginia.
That organization — quite popular for its upcoming Molasses Festival on Oct. 13 — was the only out-of-county fire and rescue group that received money from the Washington County Board of Supervisors.
But county officials have not been too satisfied with that fire hall’s response rate as of late.
So it cut the $28,000 a year that was given to the Mount Rogers Fire Hall, effective July 1.
Mount Rogers fire officials, in turn, have blamed a less-than-satisfactory response rate on a shortage of volunteers, a need for members to work on Christmas tree farms during the day and spotty cellphone service “on the mountain.”
The response rate has been little more than 50%, said Mike Rush, the supervisor who represents the Green Cove portion of Washington County.
Finding volunteers to man this new station will be a challenge, and whether the shortage can be overcome is “still to be seen,” Rush said.
“The ideal, if everything metamorphosized the way I wish it would, this would be a way to deliver services to the community,” Rush said.
“Ultimately, down the road, there may be some synthesis of Mount Rogers and Washington County where we love each other and get along and use everybody’s resources. But I’m not interested in that,” Rush said. “I’m interested in providing Washington County citizens of the mountain community with services that everybody else in the county enjoys.”
Next, according to Berry, county officials are working with Damascus fire and rescue units to place an ambulance and fire apparatus at Green Cove, plus a side-by-side vehicle to be used in case of emergencies on the nearby Virginia Creeper Trail.
After spending nearly $189,000 on the building, the remainder of the $250,000 set aside for the project in the county’s contingency fund could be used to install water and sewage systems, as well as to buy materials to finish the interior, Berry said.
“This basically would get you the building up. This gets you the envelope,” Berry said. “So, for [$250,000], you’re going to have a functioning station on the mountain in Washington County.”