A Sussex County Council decision unanimously rendered Tuesday should allow for quicker response times for the Millville fire company. Council voted 5-0 after a public hearing Tuesday afternoon to grant a conditional use to the company, allowing it to open a substation on Omar Road.
“We have a good location here,” Millville Fire Chief Graig Temple told Council of the new location. “We chose this property because that’s where growth is going to be.”
Citing the Millville by the Sea, Dove Landing and Oakley Property projects, which will add almost 4,000 homes to Route 17 in about a decade, Temple said that members who live in what he called the company’s “western district” are facing ever-growing delays traveling to the Atlantic Avenue location.
Temple said Tuesday that 30 fire-company members live west of Roxana Road, the imaginary line dividing the recently-composed eastern and western districts of the company.
With Tuesday’s council decision, those volunteers will respond to the substation, cutting miles and — more importantly — minutes off of their response time to an emergency.
“People in the western part of the district have to navigate through all the traffic,” Temple told the Coastal Point in an interview early this week. “They’re going to be able to respond a lot quicker.”
Temple said that an engine, a tanker and a utility vehicle will be housed at the new location for the 30 western volunteers. The new location will not, however — at least for the time-being — be home to any chicken dinners, or other local, inside gatherings.
According to Temple, the fire company purchased the building — a former agricultural storage unit — last year for $600,000. Modifications to the former dirt-floored building cost the company $75,000. Those modifications included adding an air compressor, running electricity, and adding flooring to the building, which sits on 6.363 acres on Omar Road, near St. George’s Church.
Future plans for the site include building a new, updated substation, along with the probable construction of a new home station on Atlantic Avenue. Temple said Tuesday that both construction projects for the company — which is still struggling with funding issues — could still be five years away.
In recent months, Temple and other Millville fire company officials petitioned the towns of Millville and Ocean View for monetary relief for continued services, which are continually being stressed by overwhelming growth in the area.
The impact fee recommended by a Millville committee, however, won’t be implemented until at least January because of a needed town charter change, which was stalled in the state Senate before the end of the legislature’s session in June.
Ocean View has recently proposed a grant system that would allow any emergency services organization to apply for grants out of a pot built annually from impact fees collected from new development in the town. Ocean View Council held a first reading on the ordinance Tuesday night and won’t vote until at least September.
“It really puts a stress on us if they start approving things in the next four months,” Temple said of future development in the town and areas of possible annexation. He added, though, that he supports the Ocean View plan. “If they approve 500 homes between now and then, that’s 500 homes we’ve lost out on possibly having an impact fee.”
Construction on the proposed new building on Atlantic Avenue could cost $2 million to $3 million and “that’s something we can’t just go get a loan for,” Temple noted. “We’re really looking for some outside help.”