Placing emergency response facilities in areas where they are needed most can be a challenging task for city planners. In heavily urbanized areas, the task can be almost impossible.
Redeveloping brownfield properties gives planners options for placing vital community services where they are most needed.
As the newest fire station steadily nears completion, the buzz around Huntington, West Virginia’s Fairfield community is one of relief. The new station will be located south of the viaducts and consequently enhance response times, especially in bad weather.
The city of Huntington is bisected by a railroad corridor running east and west. The viaducts that provide passage underneath the railroad can become impassable from stormwater runoff during heavy precipitation events, potentially adding minutes to response times when seconds count.
“The new location allows us to have resources on both sides of that divide in the event of a catastrophe of some sort,” said Huntington Fire Chief Greg Fuller.
“Statistics indicate Fairfield is the area where we have the most fires in the city of Huntington, and unfortunately, we’ve had the most fatalities. This station is going to serve a very important purpose by being here and allowing us to quickly get to folks needing help,” he added.
The station will be named after former Huntington Mayor Joseph L. Williams Jr., the first African-American individual elected to Huntington City Council, and the only African-American person to serve as mayor of the city.
Williams, a lifelong resident of the Fairfield community, is also the chairman, CEO, and founder of Basic Supply Company Inc. and co-founded of Unlimited Future Inc., a non-profit, microenterprise development center and business incubator on 8th Avenue in Huntington.
“It’s something I never expected,” said Williams. “I’ve only done what I felt I should do throughout my life and because there are so many people that have done so much to make our nation great but never receive recognition. I feel somewhat guilty that I received the recognition that they should have received.”
The new firehouse sits on two brownfield properties that were combined for the project. One property was a former gas station. The underground storage tanks were removed, and no environmental concerns remain. The second property was a former dry cleaner business. This property was assessed using EPA brownfields assessment grant funding provided by both the city of Huntington and the WV Region 2 Planning & Development Council.
This parcel has been entered into the WV Department of Environmental Protection’s (WVDEP) Voluntary Remediation Program (VRP), ensuring residual contamination remaining on the site does not pose any future health risks.
Additional rounds of groundwater sampling will be scheduled in the coming months to monitor groundwater conditions and meet VRP requirements, followed by compilation of a final report, and ultimately, a Certificate of Completion issued from the WVDEP.
The Huntington Municipal Development Authority (HMDA) provided site development supervision for this important project.
Cathy Burns, HMDA Executive Director stated, “By assembling these parcels of land for the construction of the Mayor Joseph Williams Fire Station, we were able to remove a blighted structure and assemble brownfield parcels for a vital public use serving the Fairfield community experiencing a higher percentage of structure fires causing harm to our residents and their households.”
The fire station is scheduled to open in July of 2023 at a total projected cost of $4.9 million.
Photo courtesy of the City of Huntington.
This article first appeared on the website of the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Centers. Reprinted here by permission.