Project would transform firehouse

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

FRIES — A farmers' market is first on the list of items that will occupy the old fire hall in Fries once the new $1.2 million 10,000-squre foot facility is completed later this year.

Ground was broken in December 2009 for the 12-bay building that will be located on the eastern end of the town.

Total costs for the project were upwards of $1.8 million. However, that number includes $193,141 each from the Appalachian Regional Commission and Virginia Tobacco Commission for purchasing the old fire hall downtown. Fries Town Manager Brian Reed noted that Del. Bill Carrico (R-Grayson County) helped secure the Tobacco Commission funding.

Additional funding has been provided in the amount of a $1 million federal grant through the Community Development Block Grant Recovery program, $39,525 from the Mount Rogers Planning District Commission and $386,282 from the fire department.

Costs of the project include $62,000 in administrative costs, $60,000 in grant management, $2,000 in legal fees, $451,282 in land acquisition (including $65,000 for the land the fire hall and parking lots will be placed on), $88,500 for design fees and $1,210,307 for construction.

South End Construction Inc. of Roanoke was awarded the bid for the project and expects to have the facility complete within 270 days.

Crews will do the grading on the property across the street where the parking lot for firefighters will be located. This will provide workers a place to park once construction begins on the actual building, and larger crews are mobilized.

"The are expecting to have it done quickly," Reed said of the new facility. "It's essentially just a metal building."

He noted that it would probably be closer to March before any significant progress could be seen on the site.

Once the fire department moves to the new location, the large building downtown will open up space for commercial development.

First on that list is creating a farmers' market in the middle three bays of the existing fire hall.

Reed said the town is working on another CDBG application to be submitted for the downtown redevelopment.

He expects to seek funding from Rural Development for a grant to do the farmers' market and said that up to $99,000 can be requested.

"We will probably do [the farmers' market] first," Reed said. "Just so there will be something active downtown... It's going to be a stretched-out process."

Reed added that the project to replace the main sewer line is expected to begin in March, as well.

"It's all part of the puzzle," Reed said of downtown revitalization plan.

The town also hopes to request bids for the old depot building, as well. The replica of the original train station will include the town office, police department, a tourism office and a museum.

"We just want to try and keep turning these things over," Reed said of the upcoming projects in Fries.

Federal money has already been allocated to the small town for both the depot and redevelopment of the old mill site.

"The Town of Fries is truly an asset to Southwest Virginia," Congressman Rick Boucher (D-Abingdon) said during the ground breaking in December. "Its location on the New River and at the head of the New River Trail State Park makes it an ideal destination for visitors seeking opportunities for outdoor recreation and unparalleled views of the river."