As more than 450 county employees in the police, fire and sheriff’s office working in the Massey building in Fairfax await construction of a new facility that has already been pushed out an additional year, the inadequacy of the rundown 46-year-old building is becoming more and more evident.
On June 30, the building’s air conditioning went out and required nearly two weeks of repairs.
The building’s approximately 463 employees were forced to scatter to assorted spare rooms at various locations throughout the county in order to work, and were not able to return until July 11.
“It’s an old building and anything can happen,” said Deputy County Executive and former Police Chief Dave Rohrer. “The building houses a whole host of employees who perform various duties within each of those departments. If an essential system goes out, we initiate our Continuity of Operations plan that uses existing facilities to house employees, minimizing costs while repairs are made.”
“This time an air chiller went bad and required extensive repair,” confirmed Fairfax County Government spokesman Jeremy Lasich. “There was no cost to the county for the repairs because the unit was under a service contract.”
But because the building contains asbestos, air tests also had to be conducted.
“We had to be sure no asbestos had been disturbed,” said Rohrer. Lasich said that on the morning of July 11, air tests were conducted throughout the building.
“All tests tested to acceptable levels to allow re-entry,” he said.
The repairs and tests were just one in a long line of incidents that have occurred in recent years.
Built in 1967, the 166,777-square-foot Massey building housed various general Fairfax County offices until 1992, when it was handed over to the police, fire and rescue, and sheriff departments for their exclusive use.
In July 2009, an HVAC issue similar to this most recent one closed the building for two days, and in December 2009, a cooling system pump burst, flooding the two top floors and causing water-soaked asbestos tiles to fall to the floor.
“The building experienced two failures in 2009 due to chiller and associated component breakdowns that required staff in the building to vacate and relocate,” it says in the Fairfax County FY 2014-FY 2018 Adopted Capital Improvement Program. “The building has many inefficiencies such as: aged lighting fixtures; overloaded electrical systems with no spare capacity for new equipment; aged HVAC components with repair parts often not available; aged plumbing fixtures that cause leaking behind the building walls; roof deficiencies and leaking; obsolete fire alarm systems and no sprinkler system; and asbestos fireproofing throughout the building restricting or prohibiting access to equipment in order to make needed repairs.”
A new eight-story, 272,000-square-foot building is listed as new construction in the 2014-2018 CIP, at a cost of $158.5 million, to replace the Massey building, but an original expected move-in date of 2015 has been moved back a year.
“We will have a groundbreaking next year and anticipate completion now in 2016,” Lasich said. “Following that, the Massey building will be demolished.”
Rohrer, no stranger to the building or to its intermittent evacuations, said the Continuity of Operations plan will just have to suffice if it is needed again before the new building is complete.
“We polish the plan extensively to make sure it works,” he said. “It held up well this time, and everyone’s welfare was well taken care of.”