The Hampstead Volunteer Fire Department has begun a capital campaign to help raise $6 million to cover the cost of constructing a new station and events center.
During the 120 years of service the HVFD has provided to the community, the demand on fire, rescue and emergency medical services has grown exponentially in complexity, sophistication and skills required to deliver the advanced services, according to Jim Dwyer, president of the HVFD.
Dwyer said the current building at 1341 N. Main St. in Hampstead was built in the 1970s and was never designed to house duty crews or to address the requirements of cleaning and detoxifying hazardous materials and carcinogens.
The COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the critical nature of the fire and emergency medical services as the first line of assessment and intervention to protect all citizens and deliver lifesaving care. It also highlighted the need to separate front line emergency service areas used by firefighters, EMS and HVFD personal from public access areas routinely used for fundraising, public service education, social events and community meetings.
The HVFD is making a significant investment to ensure the highest levels of services are available in the town of Hampstead and the county. In fall of 2021, the department is planning on breaking ground on the first phase of constructing a new Fire and EMS Operations Station to be located on the site of the current fire station. A new event center will be located on the rear portion of the property.
The multiphase project will begin with the construction of an interim operations building which will house all of the fire and EMS vehicles, equipment and personnel for about one year while the main station gets demolished and rebuilt.
Once the new station is complete, the building will house all emergency vehicles and contain offices, bunk rooms, training rooms, a kitchen, necessary storage and cleaning capabilities to keep equipment and turnout gear ready for service.
Upon completion of the station, all equipment in the interim operations building will be moved over. That interim building will then be converted into a fully functioning social event center, designed to host wedding receptions, parties, meetings and fundraising events with a capacity of up to 325 people.
Dwyer said this will provide a much needed higher-end social venue for the community and is expected to open by spring 2023.
The total cost of the construction totals about $6 million. As these capital investments are solely the responsibility of the HVFD, they have secured a $5 million low interest loan through the county and a $1 million loan through Farmers and Merchants Bank.
The county is home to 14 independent fire companies who employ their medics, Dwyer said. Carroll is currently in the process of developing a countywide combination fire and EMS system to “ensure consistency of advance life support” and appropriate organization in the county.
A GoFundMe page was created last week, asking community members for donations intended to go toward paying off the new construction. As of Wednesday afternoon, $275 has been contributed.
Multiple fundraising events and solicitation drives will also be held to raise money to pay for the loan commitments.
Although the department was estimated to have lost over $96,000 in canceled events and rentals over the past year due to the pandemic, some federal money was awarded through the federal coronavirus relief bill to “help offset that loss,” Dwyer mentioned.
“We’ve had to get creative with fundraising,” he said. Although the department had to cancel last year’s annual carnival, this year the event is on, scheduled for August 16 through 24 at the old North Carroll High School building.
“It was very generous of the Panthers Athletic Club and the Chesapeake Realty Group to allow us to use the space” for no fee, the president said, adding the local community seems more than willing to do what they can to help.
“We partner with a lot of local businesses. … That is exactly what we need to do and is what makes Carroll County so special,” he said. The construction of the new station is an “important thing to do, for the community and for us.”
Commissioner Stephen Wantz, R-District 1, who has years of experience himself as a firefighter, said the HVFD is “long overdue to expand their facilities.”
“Fire stations are hubs in our community,” he said, as they often host a number of community events and fundraisers. He mentioned in Hampstead, equipment sometimes has to be pulled out of their building to make room for an event.
Wantz said expanding to a greater size will not only benefit the community but will enhance the experiences of the people who work there, giving them a greater ability to do their job.
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“I applaud them,” the commissioner said. “This will be incredible for Hampstead. … We look forward to the finished product.”