OCEAN PINES – Officials say $1.35 million in state funding will allow the Ocean Pines Volunteer Fire Department (OPVFD) to complete major renovations at its South Station.
Last week, Gov. Larry Hogan submitted his $2.8 billion supplemental budget to the Maryland General Assembly. Included in the list of funded projects was a line item dedicating $1.35 million for renovations to Ocean Pines Volunteer Fire Department’s South Station.
In an interview this week, OPVFD President Dave VanGasbeck explained preparations for a renovation project at the South Station began last year, when the department contracted with Manns Woodward Studios to complete a feasibility study. Of the options presented to the department, officials say they have opted for an extensive renovation of the facility, which includes the demolition of its living and administrative quarters and the addition of a two-story building.
“They did a feasibility study for an add/alter or a restoration/renovation of this building,” he said. “The only thing we are keeping is the existing three bays … A two-story addition will be attached, and another set of bays will be added to the other side.”
VanGasbeck noted the decades-old facility currently fails to comply with standards set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and building codes. In addition to settling concrete in the administrative portion of the building, the department has also reported mold issues in the apparatus bay.
“It doesn’t meet any codes, whatsoever,” he said, “and it’s falling apart.”
While the department plans to fund a portion of the project itself, OPVFD officials in November met with local leaders – including Ocean Pines officials, county commissioners and state representatives – to discuss additional funding opportunities. And with the help of Del. Wayne Hartman and Sen. Mary Beth Carozza, the department’s request for supplemental funding was granted.
“I can’t say enough for the work they did on our behalf,” VanGasbeck said.
It should be noted that the department still awaits approval of a bond initiative request to the Maryland General Assembly, which could provide the OPVFD with additional funding. The department will also come before the Ocean Pines community in May seeking the association’s support to fund the balance of the project.
“The next step is to have a town hall meeting for the Ocean Pines community in mid- to late May to explain what we are doing,” VanGasbeck said. “The idea is to lay out to the community, transparently, what we are doing and why we are doing it … Then we will be going to referendum for the balance of the money, which will be mortgaged over a period of 30 years.”
While the total project cost is still under review, VanGasbeck said the renovation and addition to the existing South Station would allow the department to better serve the community in the years to come.
“This is not a project that lasts five years,” he added. “This is a fifty-year build. Another thing to add is it’s not the Taj Mahal, it’s not a wish list. This is simply to comply with NFPA, ADA and building standards.”
In an email update to constituents this week, Carozza also recognized the governor’s addition of supplemental funding for the fire department’s South Station.
“Governor Hogan has always supported priority Shore projects tied to public safety and economic and community development,” she wrote. “On behalf of our Shore community, I extend our deep appreciation to the Governor for his strong and steadfast support of these Shore priorities.”
Officials say plans for a town hall meeting will be announced at a later date.