The commissioners agreed on Nov. 20 to a memorandum of understanding with the Middletown Volunteer Fire Co., outlining each side’s role in the design and construction of the new facility.
The $5-million county-funded project will be built on part of the company’s carnival grounds on Franklin Street in Middletown, about two blocks from its current location on South Church Street.
That station was built in 1950, when the size of apparatus was smaller, said Tom Owens, director of the county Fire and Rescue Services Division.
Along with the need to accommodate larger equipment, the Middletown station’s shower and locker facilities, training space and other amenities need updating, he said.
The Middletown station serves one of the largest response areas in the county, Owens said.
Commissioner Billy Shreve (R) questioned a projected $400,000 cost for an architect to help design the new station, wondering if it would be more efficient to build stations from a common template.
A selection committee has decided on a recommended firm and will be asking the commissioners in the coming weeks to award the contract, Owens said.
Stations in the county are built using a standard system that determines the square footage, different types of facilities that are needed and other factors, but doesn’t have a standard design, said Steve Leatherman, head of technical services for the Frederick County Fire and Rescue Services Division and a member of the Middletown company.
No start date for the project has been determined, he said Tuesday.
“To have a standard template to use ... is very difficult to do because your sites are always going to be different,” Leatherman said.
The county has two types of designs, Owens said. One design is for a full-service station, which features paid county personnel combined with the members of a volunteer company, while the other design is for a substation usually staffed just by county firefighters.
Sometimes the fire and rescue division can pick the site of a new station, but other times a site is donated by a developer or someone else that leaves the service with less of a say in the matter, he told the commissioners.
“When we have the luxury to go out and pick a site, we are looking for a site that will give us that pretty standard, ‘cookie-cutter’ footprint that you have seen,” Owens said.
The county has built two substations using that system, but Middletown will be the first full-service station, he said.
Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R) suggested they save that design for use when building future full-service stations.
The county has urged the school system for years to use a standard design, and fire and rescue shouldn’t design a new station every time they build one, Shreve said.
Plans might have to be tweaked for some sites, but they should be based on a common design, he said.
“It just seems like each time we do this, we reinvent the wheel, and we spend a lot of money we don’t have to spend,” Shreve said.
Along with preparations for the Middletown station, the county is preparing a renovation of the Independent Hose Co. in Frederick, Owens said.
That estimated $1.4-million project to replace and expand that station’s shower and bunk facilities, along with administrative space and other areas, is in the design phase, Owens said. The project is expected to go out to bid once the design phase is completed this winter, he said.