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CB rescue squad will stay open

The Colonial Beach Rescue Squad will be allowed to remain in its home despite safety concerns expressed by the town’s building inspector.

On Aug 17, Colonial Beach Building Inspector Dexter Monroe placed a stop work order on the project when he discovered workers had dismantled a large portion of the outer walls of the building without prior permit approval.

Colonial Beach Volunteer Rescue Squad Chief Wesley Melson expressed concerns about the building’s safety.

“The building has been left open to the elements and is covered with plastic sheeting,” he said. “Also, conditions on the interior have been severely compromised in terms of comfort and accessibility for the EMS volunteers.”

An emergency council meeting Aug. 25 was called to discuss Melson’s concerns. Melson said if the building had to be evacuated, response times would be delayed, jeopardizing medical services to the public.  
Monroe told the council Melson informed him there were other safety problems throughout the untouched portion of the building and Melson said if an inspection was conducted, the entire building likely would be condemned. Melson confirmed these concerns at Monday’s meeting.

“I asked Mr. Melson if he wanted me to inspect the rest of the building (and  he declined),” Monroe said.
Melson said the rescue squad renovations being done to lift a portion of the existing structure to be used as a living/lounge area for squad members while on duty and to provide a safe storage area for medications.
Although  Monroe’s position is the entire building should be addressed since it is all within the flood zone, he has offered several solutions to allow for limited renovations while still working within the ordinance, but he said he has encountered resistance from the parties involved.

Building codes in flood-prone areas are designed to ensure new construction be built higher to avoid flood damage. If the cost of improvements planned to existing buildings total more than 50 percent of the building’s assessed value, the entire structure must be lifted to a height that would avoid flood damage.

The rescue squad building is in a flood-prone area. Throughout its 61 years the building, flooding of several  feet has occurred during several large storms, causing mold issues. Melson said Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, which dumped a record-setting 21 inches of rain on Colonial Beach in one day, left the main lobby portion of the building with irreversable mold issues.

“Attempts at mold remediation have been unsuccessful.” Meslon said.

In the case of the rescue squad, the building would have to be raised to a level of 9.2 feet to avoid flooding.
The permit application submitted by Trinity Building Co. for the rescue squad renovations said the improvements are expected to cost $126,000. The assessed value of the existing building is $148,000. Trinity said $69,000 of  repairs are “substantial improvements”.

Both Monroe and council members have urged Trinity’s owner, Steve Cirbee, to revise the application to reflect the lower amount. Cirbee said that is not necessary.

The majority of the rescue squad building is made up of storage bays to house the vehicles. Monroe has said these bays would be exempt from height requirements, if the application states these areas only will be used for that purpose.  Melson is uncomfortable with that because the squad occasionally uses these areas for fundraising activities.

Cirbee and Monroe said they would work together toward a solution.

Linda Farneth

 

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