As the N.C. Department of Transportation continues acquiring right-of-way property along U.S. 221 for the roads widening into a four-lane, the property housing the Fleetwood Volunteer Fire Department has been targeted for purchase, leaving the Fleetwood VFD to look for a new home for its people and equipment.
“I think we’ll probably be able to stay where we are for quite a while until we get a better indication of where we need to go,” said Fleetwood VFD Board Chairman Rick Surber.
Surber, along with Fleetwood VFD Chief Steve Craven, was officially informed Fleetwood VFD’s current property would be purchased and torn down during a meeting with N.C. DOT officials on April 24.
“We met with DOT on the 24th I believe, and we’re trying to coordinate it with their right-of-way purchase and, of course, we have to stay open during the construction and until we can buy a property and build a building,” said Surber.
Surber, along with the rest of the Fleetwood VFD, now has the unfortunate task of locating a new property to house the fire department.
“What we’re trying to do is to coordinate it to where we move out of here into a new place rather than go to a temporary one,” said Surber.
Even though Fleetwood VFD’s current building is scheduled to be purchased and torn down, Surber said the Fleetwood community center will not be acquired for right-of-way acquisition, and will remain “pretty much as it is.”
Surber said a part of the Fleetwood community center could be utilized as a fire house, but no decisions have been made about a new location.
“We’re looking at all options right now,” said Surber.
Due to state restrictions, the Fleetwood VFD will need to re-locate to a nearby property.
“We are limited in how far we can move,” said Surber.
However, without seeing how surrounding properties will be affected by the U.S. 221 widening project, it’s difficult to gage which properties will be the best to use, making long-term planning challenging.
“There are some places that look good now,” said Surber, “but when U.S. 221 is widened to a four-lane road, properties will look different.”
Still, according to Surber, the Fleetwood VFD still have a while to consider its options. Surber said DOT agents won’t begin acquiring property until fall of 2014.
Changes in planning now mean right-of-way acquisition will follow a new schedule, according to Daneil Miles, N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT) Right-of-Way Division Agent for Division 11,
To make the U.S. 221 widening project more manageable, the project has been divided into five sections: sections A,B,C,D and E.
Section D, which spans from N.C. 194 to South Jefferson Avenue, will now be the first section of the project to begin acquiring right-of-way, and will begin this July.
Miles said the state already owns most of the right-of-way in Section D, and will only need to purchase minor properties. Section D will be let to contract in February 2015.
Sections A and B, which begin at the U.S. 421 intersection and end at Fleetwood, were originally reported to begin acquiring right-of-way in the summer of 2013. However, “design issues” caused right-of-way access for sections A and B to be delayed until September 2013, according to Miles.
“It kind of moved ahead, or traded places, with the A and B sections,” said Trent Beaver, division 11 construction engineer.
With these changes, rather than beginning the project in Deep Gap and moving toward Jefferson, the project will begin at the end points in Jefferson and Deep Gap, and move toward the middle.
“We’re going to have construction on each end and the middle will be lacking,” said Beaver.
These changes have resulted in the Fleetwood VFD having more time to consider all its options before choosing a new home.