Brand-new Fairfax County fire station likely to remain closed through next year

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Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland,Fairfax County

A brand-new, multimillion-dollar fire station built by Fairfax County will likely remain closed next year because officials say the cash-strapped county can't afford to staff and maintain it.

County Executive Ed Long has recommended delaying the opening of the $11.3 million Wolf Trap Fire Station on Route 7 as part of his fiscal 2014 budget to save $4.2 million in firefighter salaries and building costs.

Even though construction on the station was finished last month and the county had planned to open it in 2014, the county's top administrator determined it could remain closed without affecting residents. Neighboring stations in Reston, Great Falls and Tysons Corner would continue to respond to calls in the Wolf Trap area, he said.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue spokesman Dan Schmidt said he doesn't expect resources to be stretched thin because of the delayed opening, even with the addition of Metro's Silver Line to Northern Virginia later this year.

Officials said the station will be needed beginning in 2015, however, to combat what's expected to be a higher demand because of construction in the already booming Tysons Corner.

Residents in the area say the empty building will serve as an unsightly reminder of the county's unwise spending.

"It will be sitting there for everyone to see, serving as a reminder of our screw-up," said Thomas L. Cranmer, first vice president of the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance. "What an utter waste of money and poor planning."

Supervisor John Cook, R-Braddock, attributed the decision to a harsh economic climate and the county's struggles to balance its budget. Much of the county's work on the station happened before the recession, he said, when the county was spending money to bolster its core services.

"Given the choices, all of which are bad, I support holding it back a year," Cook said. "It's part of what happens in tough budget years. The expansion of services is just not what we're doing. This budget doesn't have any improvements."

Fire and Rescue officials plan to use the station to train employees until the station is opened.

The County Board of Supervisors is schedule to adopt the fiscal 2014 budget on April 30.

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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