The Wilkes County commissioners edged closer toward building a Wilkes Emergency Medical Services substation staffed 24/7 in the Mountain View community Tuesday night.
They authorized Wilkes County Building Codes Administrator Keith Walsh to prepare more detailed specs for a 1,200-square-foot Wilkes EMS substation and to get cost estimates for its construction on part of a parcel that includes the Mountain View Ruritan Club clubhouse.
The Mountain View Ruritan Club agreed to donate part of its property for the substation, said Wilkes EMS Director Tim Pennington. In return, the county would pave a driveway on the property. The location is on Mountain View Road.
Pennington said a site plan and other preliminary plans have been completed.
He said the site initially proposed for a septic system isn’t suitable because it has fill dirt, so a letter from the Wilkes Board of Education allowing soil testing on part of the adjoining Mountain View Elementary School property was obtained to determine if it can be used.
Walsh, appearing with Pennington before the commissioners, said three building contractors have said they would submit prices for the substation, which would be a pre-engineered metal building.
He asked the commissioners if they wanted budget numbers for further discussions or contract prices.
Keith Elmore, chairman of the commissioners, said he preferred considering it again with budget numbers and other commissioners agreed. The board would then decide about moving ahead.
Pennington shared photos of county EMS substations in Burke and Davidson counties. Burke has seven EMS substations and Davidson has eight.
One photo was of a 2,400-square-foot substation completed in Burke in April 2018 at a cost of $420,000.
Pennington said Burke EMS operates on a 24-hour schedule, which he said means its substations need to provide sleeping quarters. Wilkes EMS switched to a 12-hour schedule in January 2018, so it doesn’t need sleeping facilities.
Elmore asked if it would be accurate to say Wilkes County government has “chosen to put money into people and ambulances as opposed to buildings” for EMS. “Is that a fair statement?”
Pennington responded, “Yes, the board has always supported EMS very well.”
Elmore noted that county officials initially considered a 2,000-square-foot substation and asked if a 1,200-square-foot facility was adequate. Pennington said it would be enough.
Elmore and Commissioner Eddie Settle both indicated that they believe a 1,200-square-foot substation seemed very reasonable.
Commissioner David Gambill asked why plans for the Mountain View substation called for two bays.
Pennington said, “We’re hoping to be there for 40 to 50 years and we don’t know what the future holds, plus we could put a backup ambulance there or a rescue truck—just looking proactively down the road.”
Walsh said that with a pre-engineered metal building, there would be little price difference between one and two bays.
Settle asked about the possibility of building more than one substation at the same time—as many as three. He spoke for building substations in different parts of Wilkes as soon as possible. “When a guy has to drive his child to the store to meet EMS…. it is needed ASAP.”
Pennington said building multiple substations simultaneously could be discussed when construction bids are sought. He said it could be more cost effective to build more than one at the same time.
Gambill said different parts of Wilkes have the same problem of being long distances from where EMS ambulances are now based. “We represent all parts of the county” as commissioners, he said.
Earlier this year, Pennington proposed establishing three EMS substations staffed 24/7 to help reach a goal of responding to at least 90% of emergency calls in 10 minutes or less. He proposed one in Mountain View, another on East Wilkes Middle School property in the Ronda area and a third on Call Street near the Wilkes County Courthouse.
He also proposed making the current daytime-only EMS base in the Millers Creek Fire Station a 24-hour base, which is in the works.
He said the East Middle property was available at no cost and would be reached from Little Elkin Church Road so it shouldn’t impede school traffic on Macedonia Church Road.
Pennington said space would no longer be leased for a base in the Shepherds Crossroads Fire Station. Some fire departments, including Mountain View and Ronda, lack space in their fire stations to house an EMS ambulance and crew.
Elmore said the commissioners were told that they could lease space in the Pleasant Hill Fire Station in eastern Wilkes.
Wilkes EMS currently has no substations, apart from where ambulances are based at fire stations.