By MARINA WATERS
Coverage could soon be improving when it comes to first responders in Washington County.
The Washington County Budget Committee approved a resolution to put $15,000 towards architectural fees for a potential EMS building, EMS Station 5, to be built on Stockyard Road. Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said the architectural fees are estimated to cost $30,000 and that EMS already has $15,000 and asked the county to match the amount.
EMS Director Dan Wheeley’s letter to commissioners requesting the remaining funds for the architectural phase said the building would serve as a new EMS station and a fire training site. He also said the new building could benefit the county, offering improved coverage to the far corner of Washington County.
“The relocation of the Limestone Fire unit will decrease the response time for an engine to that end of LVFD’s response area as firefighters who live nearby can respond from Limestone.”
Grandy said he felt putting $15,000 towards the architectural fees would help the county get an idea of how much the new station would cost.
“We really don’t know if we can afford it,” Grandy said. “It’s not budgeted, it’s not scheduled anywhere yet, but we don’t really have much of an idea of how we would move forward until we could get a complete set of drawings and get some estimates for it.”
Communications between first responders could also be improving with Amaeteur Radio Emergency Services equipment for each of the seven local fire stations at $1,200 per station. The $8,400 proposal was unanimously approved by the budget committee.
The equipment would ensure backup communication between 911 dispatch and the fire stations during times of disaster. Commissioner Jim Wheeler, who is also the chairman of the public safety committee, said that during recent tornadoes and the snow storm in 1993, communications went down. With the proposed equipment, communication wouldn’t be lost as it has been in past outages.
“When I first looked at this I thought we were talking about problems we had never dealt with before but we’ve actually had two situations in the fairly recent past where we would have utilized this,” Wheeler said. “Communications were out in part of the county because of the weight of that snow and then when the tornadoes hit we were in another situation where communication was out. Had we had this system, they would have been able to communicate.”
While it would improve communications between dispatchers and fire stations, Wheeley also said it is a system that is mandated by the state for hospitals.
“It really is a state-wide system,” Wheeley said. “We’d still be able to talk to the hospitals through the system.”
Grandy said he felt the equipment would help better serve the area and take services to new heights in the county.
“This puts us at a whole new level.”
These items will be decided upon by the full commission at its next meeting on Monday, Dec.1, at 6 p.m. at the justice center in Jonesborough.