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Front Page » September 28, 2004 » Local News » Ambulance garage site still in limbo
Published 3,993 days ago

Ambulance garage site still in limbo

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An artist conception of the ambulance garage east elevation.

In the next few months, construction will begin on a new Carbon County Ambulance garage.

However, where it will be built is still up in the air, despite a long public meeting that was held last Thursday night for residents of the neighborhood surrounding the site. The purpose of the meeting was to approve or disapprove the location the county selected a few months ago.

"I am not yet sure what we are going to do," said Carbon County Commission Chair Mike Milovich on Friday morning. "Where it will be built is still up in the air."

It was hoped by officials that such a meeting would clear the air and give a definite direction in which to head, either by using the current proposed site near 100 North and 100 West or by selecting one of two alternate sites that had been examined. But, out of the over 70 residences in the area that were given flyers about the hearing in the week before the meeting, 14 people showed up.

That didn't mean the meeting was lightly attended, though. The room was not packed, but over 50 people made their presence known, some of them in official capacities, others just out of curiosity.

"The main purpose of this meeting is to dispel any rumors that you may have heard," said Milovich as he began the session. "And I also want to say that if those of you that are here from the neighborhood as a group decide you don't want it at that site, we will move it somewhere else."

Milovich then went into detail about the reasons the proposed site was selected.

"One of the reasons we picked that site was because Price City officials asked us to find somewhere within Price to locate it for the health of their residents," he said. "In many emergency medical situations, time is of the essence and a minute's difference can be the deciding factor between life and death."

Milovich said that the site was not all positive, however. As they examined it they found that some of what they had originally wanted to place inside the building couldn't be accommodated because of restraints caused by the small lot the facility would be built on. The main feature that has been pulled from the plans for the building is a new communications center, where the service people for county communications work. That area may now be included in the new county road shops which will be built in the next couple of years on Airport Road. However a backup dispatch center is still included in the plans for the garage.

"That backup dispatch is there to serve the community in an emergency, should the center in south Price be down for some reason," stated Milovich.

Because of the questions that have been raised about ambulance operations by some in the neighborhood, Don Marrelli, the manager of ambulance services for the county also spoke at the meeting. One of the things he addressed was the concerns people have about lights and sirens going off at all hours of the day and night.

"The fact is we don't really use lights and sirens that much of the time," he said. "Because of state regulations we have to keep track of everything we do and one of those things is when we use those devices and I have compiled the statistics for that use from 2002 up to the present."

Marrelli's figures showed that in 2002 the ambulance crews responded to 1,142 calls and used lights and sirens in 220 of those responses or about 19 percent of the time. In 2003 they went to 1,203 calls and used them 243 times or a little over 20 percent of the time. So far in 2004 the garage has responded to 865 calls and used them 126 times or 14 percent of the time.

"Often we head out on a call and don't even have them activated until later in the response because we learn that the incident is a more dire situation than earlier reported," said Marrelli. "But if we turn them on only for a few seconds we must report that we used them."

Marrelli also pointed out that this past year the ambulance service has been moved to a higher level of certification, which means with the new equipment and materials they now use they can now bring the hospital emergency room right to the spot where the incident is occurring.

"Response time does make a difference," he commented, talking about the three to five minute window emergency crews have to save people who have cardiac arrests. "The new level has made a difference too. In the past if an incident required more than 10 minutes in response time on a major cardiac problem people usually died. In my 16 years with the service before this year, I can only remember two people we saved after that long. With our new level of certification, equipment, materials and training we have saved five that went over that much time already this year."

Marrelli pointed out that as with the old garage, all five of the county's ambulances will be housed in the new facility. The new facility will also be a training center for EMTs in the county once a month, which brought on some questions about parking.

"There will be people parking on the street at that time because the lot will only provide nine stalls," said Milovich. "That will happen once a month for about three hours."

The service itself employes six full time people and 10 part time. However, they are seldom there all at once.

This is an architects conception of what the north elevation of the new ambulance garage on 100 West will look like. While the building is being designed for that site, officials say it would also adapt to any of the alternate sites that have been examined.

"We run in 24 hour shifts," said Marrelli. "So two people will be staffing the facility at all times."

The audience also raised some questions about the facilities design, it's look and how it will operate in relationship to the streets around it.

The architects from Edwards and Daniels were at the meeting and showed elevation drawings and a floor/lot plan for the facility. They also had a drawing of how it would look on the east side. They pointed out that the six roll up doors (three on the east and three on the west that provide a pull through) will be 32 feet from the street. The doors will be electric and will raise at about the same rate as the average garage door opener that people have on their homes. Altogether the planned facility would have about 8,200 square feet of space.

The meeting also featured a more detailed discussion about other possible sites. Milovich pointed out that one site was near the Holiday Inn on 100 north and the other was across the street from the old Walmart Store on the east end of town. Neil Brienholt of the Small Business Alliance also told the commissioners that they knew of another lot also near the Holiday Inn that they thought would be better because it is bigger and has basically all the same advantages the proposed site has.

"It's five and a half acres and would have better access to the freeway," he said. "That site, being bigger might make it so that the county would be able to locate more services in that one place."

Because of the various locations being discussed, response time became a central issue of the discussion once again. Milovich pointed out that by putting the garage by the Holiday Inn, the response time into central Price could be reduced by as much as a minute.

"The fact is that anywhere you move it someone will get a slower response time than the people who live near it," said Jeanne McEvoy, a city councilwoman for Price and an owner of a home next to the proposed site. "I think you need to look at the county and Price and where the growth patterns are. The garage should be placed where it serves all the community."

Price Mayor Joe Piccolo stated that he wanted the garage placed in the proposed place because he thought that spot was a central location to Price, but that he was prepared to accept another site if residents didn't want it there.

The architects pointed out that changing sites would slow down the process, despite the fact the facility they have preliminary drawings on could be built on any piece of ground. They said that soil tests would have to be done and other information would have to be gathered and analyzed on any new sites selected.

"There are trade offs up and down this thing," said Jerry Carlson, also of the Small Business Alliance. "We just think the alternate Neil mentioned would provide a better place for the facility, and anything else the county would want to put there."

Grady McEvoy pointed out that the proposed site leaves little room for expansion of the garage should the county need to do that.

"Maybe the county needs ambulances in more than one location, so if there is a disaster such as an earthquake and it destroys those in one garage, other units can take over," he stated.

But Marrelli countered that this new garage as proposed is an expansion over what exists now.

"There is enough room for two to three more ambulances than we have now, as well as extra sleeping facilities," he explained. "The fact is that this building is already being built with the future in mind."

He also said that if the county had another garage it would cause costs to escalate beyond what the county can afford at the present time. With the level of certification the county has they would have to staff a satellite ambulance garage 24 hours a day, just like the main one.

The issue of what might happen to the proposed site if the county did decide to move the garage was another issue that was discussed. Milovich pointed out that if it is moved the county will sell the property and since it is zoned commercial no one can predict what might be built there.

"I want everyone to understand that is not a threat of having something undesirable moving on that property if we do let it go, but the sale of the property would become a reality if we don't use it for this purpose," he stated.

Jeanne McEvoy pointed out that in her mind, however, the chances of something good and desirable being built there are just as high as something undesirable.

"The point is that no one knows for sure what might go there," she said.

Commissioner Bill Krompel said that he thought maybe more study should be done on the other sites before a decision is made, and suggested to Milovich that might be the proper way to proceed.

"I've learned a lot I didn't know about this from this meeting tonight and I think that might be the thing to do," he told the group.

However, he and Milovich also had the residents that were present at the meeting vote on the issue and it was a virtual tie between for and against. The vote was taken by a raise of hands.

It was suggested that ballots be sent out to the same residences that got the meeting fliers the week before so that everyone could have a say. Some at the meeting thought that was not a very good idea, but some said it was the only way to get proper input from the neighborhood.

Based on information provided at the end of the meeting ballots will go out within the next two weeks. There will only be one ballot sent per house.

"We need to get this resolved soon," said Milovich after the meeting. "The garage we have is in very bad shape and needs to be replaced as soon as possible."

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