MILLSBORO — If all goes according to plan, the town’s first fire substation will be operational very soon, enhancing response time for members who live west of busy DuPont Boulevard.
By a 4-0 vote Tuesday, Sussex County Council gave a green light to the $450,000 facility, authorizing the conditional-use approval that the Planning & Zoning Commission recommended Nov. 4.
“This is probably the easiest vote I have made since I have been here,” said District 5 Councilman John Rieley. “I just want to say how much I appreciate the volunteers and everything they do. So my vote is yes, based on the commission and reasons offered by Planning & Zoning.”
Councilmen Mark Schaeffer, Doug Hudson and Michael Vincent also supported the request. Councilwoman Cindy Green was absent.
One remaining hurdle is completing the property transfer for the 1.54-acre property, which is zoned agricultural-residential. It is located on Del. 24 at Lewes Road, just outside of town limits and at the edge of Millsboro’s primary annexation area.
“We hope the sale will be completed by the end of the year and hope to have apparatus out there, if not by the end of the year, then very quickly,” said Ron O’Neal, Millsboro Fire Co.’s president. “If everything went great, it would be by the end of the year. But we know there is going to be some hiccups along the way. So (at the) end of this year or first part of next year, we hope to be up and running.”
An existing garage will house fire apparatus designated for the new substation, which will not be equipped with a siren, Mr. O’Neal said. The property is serviced by private well and septic.
The fire company is considering basing an ambulance there, perhaps on a part-time trial basis.
“This is the first substation we’ve ever had,” Mr. O’Neal said. “There may be an ambulance stationed out there during the day. Those things are fluid. We’re going to see what works best for our calls, for our crews and for our members. Then, we’ll adjust accordingly.”
About half of Millsboro Fire Co.’s approximately 70 members reside on the western side of U.S. 113, which can be challenging when they are responding to Station 83’s firehouse on State Street.
“There is an eight-minute time mark that is set up by the Emergency Operations Center. We do very well with that, but it just makes it easier for the guys on the west side,” Mr. O’Neal said. “On the weekends, and especially during the summer, for them to try to get into town to the original firehouse on State Street, it’s a chore. It’s tough. This will allow us to provide continuous fire and (emergency medical services) to the town of Millsboro and surrounding area and be well within that eight-minute mark.”
Attorney Rachel Bleshman was representing the fire company during Tuesday’s meeting.
“The recommendation from the Planning & Zoning Commission comes to you at a time when Millsboro is growing. Millsboro, frankly, is often bustling,” she said. “A substation on the west side of 113 is really needed at this stage.”
Fire company spokesman Larry Gum agreed, saying, “It’s going to save our volunteers on that side of having to get through Millsboro to our station. That was the premises of this.”
The fire company received authorization from the Delaware State Fire Prevention Commission for a permit for a substation. The proposal was also backed by support from the neighboring Dagsboro Volunteer Fire Department and the Georgetown Fire Co., as well as 82 letters, many from people who reside in the area of the substation.