County promises meeting to discuss ambulance garage
The issue of the new county ambulance garage site came up at the Carbon commission meeting Aug. 18 and the lawmakers explained the plans for the facility.
Several representatives from surrounding neighborhoods have asked the commission questions and requested that the county look at different alternatives for the garage.
Last Wednesday, Carrie Healy approached the commissioners about a petition that had been presented to the county.
"I am representing the neighbors in the area," said Healy. "You have a petition signed with 78 signatures that expresses our concerns about the proposed garage."
The county has tentative plans to build the garage near 150 North and 100 West in Price across from a residential area.
However, the property is zoned commercial, bordered on one side by a service station.
After purchasing the property for the facility last winter, the county has surveyed and begun preliminary planning for the building.
Price reportedly encouraged the purchase because the officials did not want to lose response time for local citizens to a location outside the city limits.
At first, it appeared there was little opposition to building the structure.
But during the ensuing months, there have been a series of neighborhood meetings where a number of citizens have opposed the construction.
The garage will replace an aging facility located east of the county courthouse which has a variety of structural and security problems.
"We have had more meetings and the old as well as some new concerns have surfaced," stated Healy.
In the past, the commission has heard from groups concerned about traffic and parking problems, noise, the configuration of the building and land values.
Healy said residents in the neighborhood were also concerned that the garage site may located be too close to sources of possible explosions due to the gas station and a fertilizer plant to the west.
"For these reasons and others, we have submitted a letter to you asking you to consider other sites for the garage," said Healy. "And we would also like to know where you are at this time on building the garage at the proposed site."
Commissioner Mike Milovich indicated that the county only has the preliminary drawings for the building and the architect has just started on the plans. But the county needs to move quickly because the old garage will not be adequate much longer.
"It appears to me that the garage will actually have less of an impact on that area than if homes were built on the site," stated Milovich, referring to the fact that three or four new residences on the block would average three to four trips a day out of driveways.
"The ambulance garage averages 3.5 trips per day and, 98 percent of the time, they don't blow their sirens until they are out on the main streets. We will soon be able to present a plan to you to show you how the building will be configured," pointed out the commissioner.
When the process started, Milovich went to a number of the neighbors and the people seemed fine with the plans for the facility. But since the survey was completed last spring and several property discrepancies were discovered, the opposition has seemed to surface.
"If we change our minds and do move it somewhere else, we are going to have to sell that property and who knows what someone else will want to do with it," explained Milovich. "It is zoned commercial and we have two prospective buyers and they will put what they want there as long as it fits the zoning."
Milovich refused to disclose the identity of the buyers. But two companies are reportedly interested in purchasing the property for commercial purposes.
"I am taking that statement as a threat," replied Healy.
Commissioner Steve Burge pointed out that Milovich's comments were not a threat, but the reality of the situation.
"All I am saying is that, if we have to move it and end up selling the property, you may end up with something much less desirable there," indicated Milovich. "The petition mentions making the area into a green space, but I doubt that is what would end up there."
The current ambulance garage is close to condemnation and several sites proposed by neighbors have major expense problems, added Milovich.
"I just want things to slow down," said Healy,. "It seems this whole project has moved too fast. We need another six months to evaluate it. This issue is not about a 16-foot property discrepancy - it's about a bigger picture than that. We just don't think this facility belongs in a residential area."
Responding to Healy, Commissioner Bill Krompel said the county can look at the other sites "if that is your desire. But remember that if we choose another site, the present one will have to be sold."
Part of the concerns appeared to center around the neighborhood's feeling that the county had not been totally upfront about the type of building that will be constructed and what the impact will be.
"I think we have been forthright in all our dealings on this project," stated Milovich. "But if the neighbors want us to, we will have a public meeting just on this issue so we can explain our side of it directly. Then if you want us to move it, we will find another place to put it. The design is moving forward, but it is no where near done so we can change things if that is what you want."
Milovich said the initial plan to include the county's communications center in the building had been scraped due to space restrictions. The center will now be included in the new county maintenance shops planned on Airport Road.
The issue of a park on the property was also addressed by Price Mayor Joe Piccolo at the commission meeting. The mayor explained the city's philosophy on another park, particularly in that part of the city.
"The situation is such that the East side of our city needs green space at this time," said Piccolo. "And that wouldn't be the only first choice where to put another park. In fact, the area under discussion here wouldn't even be a first or second choice, based on the city master plan as approved by the city council."
Paul Brown, a neighbor of the proposed garage, voiced support of the proposed site.
"Given what I see as the alternatives, I think I would like to see the ambulance garage built there," commented Brown.
In the end, the commission committed to conducting a public meeting on the issue before the project moves past the planning stage.
"The point is that we don't want to shove this down anyone's throat," pointed out Milovich. "But having these facilities in the neighborhood will benefit the area because, for those who live there, the medical response time will be very quick. It's a lot like insurance. You hate to pay for it, but, when you need it, you are sure glad you have it."