Ground was broken Thursday for a Wilkes Emergency Medical Services substation on Mountain View Road in Hays.
Wilkes EMS Director Tim Pennington said it will be staffed 24/7 in two 12-hour shifts, with two emergency medical technicians per shift responding up to 10 miles out initially as response time studies are conducted. Two ambulances will be based there.
The 1,485-square-foot facility will be built on property leased long-term at no cost from the Mountain View Ruritan Club. The site is near the Ruritan clubhouse, Mountain View Fire Station and Mountain View Elementary School.
“How better to serve your community than to take property not being utilized… and offer it up to the community so it can be used to save lives,” said Jason Harrold, 2019 Mountain View Ruritan Club president.
The new EMS substation “is probably the single most important event that has happened” in the community since the Mountain View Medical Center was started in the late 1970s, said Harrold, speaking in the clubhouse at the groundbreaking event.
He noted the role of members of the Mountain View Ruritan Club in starting the Mountain View Medical Center.
Harrold said discussions that led to land being leased for the substation began from Bill Sexton suggesting this. Sexton is a former fulltime and now part-time Wilkes EMS paramedic, longtime member of the Mountain Fire Department and fire department board president since 2007.
Harrold said Ruritan represents community service, fellowship and good will. It’s more than facilities “and the tasty chicken we cook out back.” He said the Mountain View Ruritan Club does much to help schools.
He invited anyone interested in serving the community to join and noted that the 2020 officers include David Frye as president and Greg Tharpe as vice president. Jerry Sidden has been a member 40 years.
The Mountain View substation will be the first facility built specifically for Wilkes EMS.
The agency has had ambulances and personnel stationed at volunteer fire stations, including currently 24/7 at Millers Creek and Shepherds Crossroads and during the day shift at Pleasant Hill. Some fire stations, including Mountain View and Ronda, lack space to serve as EMS substations.
The main EMS base began in the basement of the Wilkes Department of Social Services building in 1971, and has been in facilities at the hospital in North Wilkesboro since about 1990.
The county commissioners are evaluating building a substation on the East Wilkes Middle School property.
“Our school system will be willing to work with you (county government) moving forward when other opportunities like this come up throughout the county,” said Wilkes School Superintendent Mark Byrd during the event Thursday.
The Wilkes school board approved allowing use of nearly half an acre of adjacent Mountain View Elementary School land for the substation at its Jan. 6 meeting.
This included an easement on about 0.222 of an acre for the substation’s septic system and leasing about 0.123 of an acre to the county for the substation building. Land deeded by the Ruritan Club to the county for the substation includes 0.087 of an acre the club leases from the school system, so the school board also approved this.
Byrd said purposes of a school include making its community stronger. “We’re fortunate to live and work somewhere where the county, school system and community work as well as we do together. I can assure it doesn’t go on everywhere.”
He said that when the school system was asked to be part of the substation initiative, his first thought was that a student, teacher or parent could need EMS. “I pray that that isn’t the case, but we can all rest tonight knowing that we have gone out of our way to keep our people safer by what’s going on today.”
Byrd said he wants students, teachers and staff in the Wilkes schools to have the best of everything and the Wilkes EMS substation is a step in that direction.
“I hope our small contribution to this benefits this community for a long time to come. On behalf of the school board and the entire school system, I would like to thank the county, EMS and the Ruritan club for making this a reality.”
Eddie Settle, chairman of the county commissioners, recognized members of the Mountain View Ruritan Club board - Jason Harrold, Greg Tharpe, Jerry Sidden, David Price, Diane Brown and Hunter Tharpe—for working with county officials to make the property available.
Settle said there were four Wilkes EMS calls in the area during the period of about an hour that county officials met with the Mountain View Ruritan board members to discuss establishing an EMS base on part of the club’s property.
Settle said he was aware of a man in Mountain View driving his son to meet a Wilkes EMS ambulance because it couldn’t reach them fast enough. “That should never happen. We all pay taxes and we all deserve a 10-minute response—everyone in this room,” he said.
Settle said Pennington led efforts to establish the substation in Mountain View “and made it easy for us.” He called Pennington the finest EMS director in the state and introduced him to speak.
Pennington acknowledged efforts of Bergie Speaks, maintenance director for the Wilkes schools; County Attorney Tony Triplett; Derek Goddard of Wilkesboro-based Blue Ridge Engineering; Keith Walsh, Wilkes Building Inspections director; Dr. Lance Henninger, Wilkes EMS medical director; and Jeff Hinshaw, Wilkes EMS associate medical director.
“Lives will be saved and the facility will serve thousands,” Pennington added.
The substation will be built on part of the clubhouse driveway near Mountain View Road, so that portion will be relocated. An agreement between the county and club includes having the county pay for relocating part of the driveway and paving all of it and the club building parking lot. The Wilkes Board of Elections uses the clubhouse as a polling place.
Bids of $118,300 from PADCO Excavating Inc. for grading and $159,640 from Ricky Viles LLC for construction were received informally and approved.
The new substation is part of a Wilkes EMS goal of responding to at least 90% of the agency’s emergency calls within 10 minutes.
Pennington outlined plans for achieving this goal in a county board meeting in March 2019. The new substation is part of the plans. He said then that Wilkes EMS had achieved the goal of 10 minutes or less on about 70% of its calls.