Alexandria, VA

Despite the pandemic, significant progress is being made on the new fire station in the Beverley Hills neighborhood.

Fire Station 203 is in the third of four phases of development, according to Alexandria communications officer Andrea Blackford, with the first floor walls being constructed.

“Phase 1 was the construction of a temporary station, and in Phase 2, fire personnel were moved out of the existing station into the temporary station and the old fire station was demolished,” Blackford said. “Phase 3 is the construction of the new station and landscaping; and under Phase 4, personnel will move into the new station, the temporary station will be demolished, and City streets affected by the construction will be repaired.”

Construction on the project started spring 2019. Blackford said there were delays initially because of difficulties in construction of the temporary fire station, then poor weather hampered construction further. Blackford said the weather has improved and construction is proceeding on schedule.

“Currently, the base foundation is now completed, the concrete floors for the living spaces have been finished,” Blackford said. “The apparatus floor is next to be poured, and the first floor walls are now being constructed. A Fire Station 203 construction livecam is available for viewing progress on the project.”

The station was initially scheduled to open later this year, but Blackford said the project is targeted to be completely finished — including temporary station demolition and street repair — in spring 2021.

Image via City of Alexandria

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Spring Cleaning Day has become an annual tradition in the Beverley Hills neighborhood, but a change that makes every trash day its own Spring Cleaning Day has left some residents fuming.

“The Spring Clean Up has always occurred one magical Saturday a year, where people can put bulk trash and oversized items at the curb for trash pick up,” local blog Tales from the Beverley Hills Listserv recounted in a post. “BevHills residents gleefully turn into Sanford and Son-esque trash pickers, slowly trawling the neighborhood in their cars to scavenge bulk items like used furniture, gallons of old paint, half-destroyed kid toys, and broken Lime scooters (lol). It’s like Santa, but in reverse.”

After one local resident on the listserv asked about the date of this year’s trash pickup, Mayor Justin Wilson answered that it had been replaced with a weekly bulky item collection.

“This decision was made as part of last year’s budget process,” Wilson explained. “While this did save the ratepayers about $65K, it is intended as a service enhancement. We pick up all of the same things, now year-round instead of once a year.”

Some two dozen emails followed, as residents lamented the loss of the festive community event. Said one:

How incredibly sad this is to hear. Have you never watched the fever of activity that surrounds each area’s spring cleanup? Because of the concentration of items placed at curbside on a specific date, people from miles around scour each neighborhood for the myriad of things that in fact help them make ends meet. Scrap metal, repairable lawn mowers, reusable furniture, salvageable TVs, wheelbarrows, etc. all get picked up and taken away for sale  and reuse. In my experience, someone ends up taking away at least half of what I have put out for spring cleanup. Not only do we save valuable landfill space, we feed a robust local recycling/personal income enhancing activity with our traditional program. Under this new regime it all goes to the dump. Regardless of how well-intentioned this change in procedure may have been, please give it a second look.

“This is a shame,” another resident wrote. “Spring Clean Up is an amazing event! Who made this decision? Certainly not the citizens of Alexandria!”

Some locals looked more favorably on the change, saying the more regular pickup helped cut down on the length of time bulk items piled up in the garbage. There is also now discussion of residents setting one particular day as a new neighborhood clean up day.

File photo by Jay Westcott

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Online drama over Alexandria’s governance has led to some harsh online messages from residents about city staff and elected officials. But Wayne Hulehan, the co-founder and administrator of the Beverley Hills ListServ, is not having it.

Members of the listserv, of which there are 2,200, have of late been going on extended rants about the mayor and city manager, including some name calling. After multiple requests to crack down on the unneighborly discourse, this past weekend Hulehan changed the rules for the forum he created 17 years ago. Subscribers can discuss the issues, but personal attacks are not allowed, including those against city officials.

“You can disagree with people without being disagreeable, and we have more in common than not,” Hulehan told ALXnow. “We’re more about helping our neighbors than talking about who shot John, who did what and snuck it under the table.”

What led to this?

Recently the tone of the listserv changed when the Alexandria City Public School system mistakenly released a feasibility study regarding potential affordable and workforce housing on the grounds of George Mason Elementary School. A subscriber then sent out a note that called the mayor and city manager “fools,” Hulehan said, adding that the political conversations have resulted in an exodus of about 100 subscribers over the last month.

For a while the listserv was echoing the tone of the Alexandrians Against the Seminary Road Diet Facebook group, which is full of heated discussions about city governance.

One subscriber aired a list of grievances against the city.

What’s going on here with respect to city governance lately is just short of lunacy. The Potomac Yard metro fiasco, the Vision Zero implementation efforts, the concealment of the glass recycling problems, the road system reconfiguration with some primary features that 95% of the city residents will never use, the school system buildings and grounds and the latent attempts to repurpose them are a few of the many issues being mishandled by our “Leaders.” There are way too many issues that we find out about here in the City by accident. Not a conspiracy theorist but what else don’t we know about that the City is involved in that which probably doesn’t benefit the residents?

Hulehan, who started the listserv to help spread useful local information after a neighborhood woman was stabbed, said that most topics remain on the table for discussion, as long as cordiality is maintained.

“This is intended to help out our neighbors. People have things for sale, things free on the curb, asking about plumbers and carpenters,” he said. “It was getting more and more into acerbic and caustic flame wars back and forth.”

Now the bottom of all listserv emails includes the message: “Complaining about an elected official by name or by office title or political party for ignoring the neighborhood’s needs or selling out to outside interests is a good conversation to have with friends at St. Elmo’s, but not allowed for this neighborhood listserv.”

The listserv has gotten so heated over the years that it prompted the creation of the “Tales of the Beverley Hills Listserv” blog, which started in 2015 after neighbors started arguing about throwing bags of dog feces in trash cans.

“Look out! The poors are coming!” was the headline of a recent blog post chronicling the George Mason Elementary affordable housing drama on the listserv.

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It’s been a long time coming, but Fire Station 203 (2801 Cameron Mills Road) in North Ridge is finally coming down.

The 71-year-old station is being replaced by a modern, 15,000 square-foot, two-story station. The new station is planned to have two and a half operational bays to house a fire engine and medical units, according to the city’s website.

The firefighters of Station 203 are currently operating out of a temporary facility at the intersection of Pierpoint and Monticello Blvd.

Construction on the new building is scheduled to start this month, with the fire station scheduled to move in sometime in spring 2021, followed by the demolition of the temporary fire station.

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After 34 years and no sick leave, James “JJ” Jackson wrapped up his last shift at Fire Station 203 yesterday (Tuesday).

Short of a little time in Del Ray and Old Town, Jackson said he’s spent every year of his career at the firehouse in Alexandria’s Beverly Hills neighborhood.

“I’m excited,” Jackson said. “I’m ready. I’m definitely going to miss my colleagues.”

Jackson said he quickly fell in love with the station and its coverage area. (The station is now in the process of being demolished and replaced with a new firehouse.)

“I like it up here,” Jackson said. “It’s a neighborhood feel, a little less city. That’s what I liked about it. The neighbors always take care of us and bring us stuff at Christmas.”

Jackson started on Oct. 1, 1984, and said he’s never taken a day of sick leave, but wasn’t sure if that was a record in the department.

Over those years, Jackson said the biggest changes were the incorporation of computers into firefighting and other new technologies.

“There’s a lot more EMS involvement too,” Jackson said. “The firefighting job is basically the same though.”

Jackson said his main plans once he retires are to travel and spoil his grandchildren.

Photo via Alexandria Fire-EMS/Twitter

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