Western Rowan to get ambulance station

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 18, 2012

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY – West Rowan residents should soon get medical help a little faster in emergencies, county officials say.
The county plans to partner with the Cleveland Fire Department to base an ambulance there starting in January.
On Monday, the Rowan County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a budget Monday to get a temporary site up and running.
Ambulance response time in most parts of the county is below the national goal of nine minutes, said Emergency Services Chief Frank Thomason. But in some western areas, like Cleveland, it can take more than 12 minutes for paramedics to arrive.
“The project that we are proposing today will provide… an immediate presence in west Rowan,” Thomason said. “It will provide us with a temporary facility at a location in the town of Cleveland, adjacent to the existing community fire station.”
A modular structure would be built on that land, which is owned by the Cleveland Fire Department, Thomason said. The county would use this temporary site for up to five years while a new fire station facility is constructed that would included permanent quarters for EMS.
The six-month budget for the new West Rowan ambulance station is $576,703, including $178,343 in personnel costs for six new positions.
County staff members have been researching this project, Thomason said, since commissioners asked for more information at a budget workshop this spring. He thanked the town of Cleveland and its fire department for their help in the process.
Thomason said staff tried to model the budget on a project in 1988 or 1989 that used a mobile home as a temporary location. That would have carried a budget of about $59,000, not including personnel costs.
But with new requirements under state and local codes, as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the station now has to be located in a commercial structure.
“That is bringing the cost up significantly,” Thomason said.
He said he is looking into declaring the building as a non-public access facility so that it wouldn’t have to meet some of those requirements.
Commissioner Jim Sides said he hopes that is possible, because the public won’t really be using the building.
He also stressed that the first structure itself wouldn’t be temporary. After the permanent EMS location in West Rowan is constructed, the modular unit can be used as a replacement or additional EMS station elsewhere.
“The expectation is this unit would last at least 30, maybe 40 years or longer,” Sides said. “We’re not intending to dispose of it after five years.”
Thomason said the station at Hurley School Road and Statesville Boulevard will need to be replaced soon anyway, and this structure would be a good option for that.
Commissioner Jon Barber encouraged the board to consider the Rockwell area’s EMS needs next because of high call volume there.
He said he’s glad to vote for the project to move forward, even though it wasn’t part of the county’s approved budget.
Right now, the county has six ambulance stations, including one in China Grove, one in Landis and one in eastern Rowan County. The other three are located in or near the city of Salisbury.
That doesn’t count Rowan County Rescue Squad vehicles, which don’t usually respond to general medical calls.
Thomason also suggested Monday that the county hire a general contractor to facilitate the project, because it is getting too big for a small group of county staff to handle. Commissioners agreed to pay a fee of 5 percent of the construction costs for a contractor.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.

In other business
At their meeting Monday, The Rowan County Board of Commissioners offered an incentive package to Freshouse, which would create 90 new jobs and invest $6.3 million if it locates its expansion in Rowan County.
Freshouse is considering moving out of its leased facility on Julian Road, where it has operated for 15 years, and buying the vacant building at 311 Long Meadow Drive.
The board agreed on a five-year grant for the company totaling 70 percent of the real and personal property tax revenue generated by the project. That number is lower than the county’s standard 75 percent, because not all of the money spent by the company would be new investment.
Commissioner Jim Sides voted “no” in the 4-1 decision, saying he opposes incentives but not the company.
Freshouse is looking at locations in several states, but it appreciates Rowan’s support and thinks this is “potentially a great location,” said Michael King, the company’s attorney.
Commissioners also:
• Expressed opposition to the city of Salisbury’s proposal to add bike lanes and remove driving lanes on Statesville Boulevard. Most said they don’t think the plan is a good one, and all five agreed that the city and the N.C. Department of Transportation should listen to concerns of residents who live along that road.
• Asked staff to formalize their requirements of volunteer fire departments. The county asks each fire district board to hold a public hearing before raising the fire tax in that district.
Commissioners said they also want departments to tell them about large purchases throughout the year, so they’re not surprised when tax increases are requested at budget time. They unanimously agreed to make this part of a formal resolution.
• Delayed consideration of converting Rowan Transit Systems fleet to a dual fuel system of propane and gasoline.
• Approved a resolution for an airport grant for land for a runway protection zone and perimeter fencing.
• Approved an amendment of the county’s appointment process for its boards and commissions. The change will allow the board clerk to automatically re-advertise a vacancy, sending a notification to commissioners, if it receives an application for reappointment of an individual whose term limits have expired.
• Approved a few budget amendments.