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Friends of Public Safety: Virginia Citizens, Officials Push for New Building

Baihly Warfield
Created: March 05, 2018 10:32 PM

With a fire station built in 1909 and a police station with barely enough room to house evidence, Virginia's Public Safety departments are looking for a new home. And now, they have a group of citizens behind them. 

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The Friends of Public Safety group began meeting a couple months ago. It's a group of citizens that want to help out police and fire however they can. 

"I think everyone, regardless of age, is worried about public safety," Friends of Public Safety President Rocci Lucarelli said. 

Lucarelli was born and raised on the Range, and he said he plans to stay there. So he sees how important it is. 

"Being an older community with older buildings, older homes and older people, you can see the real need for public safety," he said. 

The police and fire departments have proposed a joint public safety building to be constructed somewhere in Virginia's downtown area. Virginia Fire's current building isn't cutting it. 

"The current building is actually structurally unsound. It was shored up in 1999 with beams to prevent the ladder truck from falling into the basement," Chief Allen Lewis said. "It's not ADA compliant, and it's not gender equitable."

Virginia City Councilor Steve Johnson said these buildings have been on his radar since before he was elected. 

"That fire hall was designed for hay and horses, not for 100-ton apparatus," Johnson said. 

A new, joint building would likely cost about $15 million. Friends of Public Safety knows its members aren't going to raise that kind of money. But they hope to help in other ways. 

"It's more of a group to support our public safety and to educate the people," Lucarelli said. 

"The days of having auxiliary where the spouses helped out when the men were working are gone," Johnson said. "So we wanted to create a more cohesive support group for the people that support us day in and day out." 

Friends of Public Safety is also working on getting 501c3 status and plans on supporting things like K-9 officers' needs, CPR training, DARE, MDA Fill the Boot, National Night Out and Shop With a Cop. 

Finding the funding will be the officials' jobs. Chief Lewis was in St. Paul last week, lobbying the legislature for bonding money to support the project. 

"Like anything, there's a lot of competing priorities," Lewis said. "So it was up to me to bring this to the front and say, this is very important to the city of Virginia and to the entire region."

The citizens can be good advocates too.

"This isn't some frill we're asking for," Lucarelli said. "This is a real need in the community."

Friends of Public Safety is still recruiting members. If you would like to get involved, you can call (218) 748-7520 or email friendsofvps@virginiamn.us. 

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Baihly Warfield

Copyright 2018 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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