Cen­tral EMS eyes new head­quar­ters

Bids be­ing taken; three-per­son com­mit­tee to over­see pro­ject

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - SCAR­LET SIMS

FAYETTEVILLE — Cen­tral EMS will take the first steps to build a new head­quar­ters for all ser­vices to be un­der one roof.

The am­bu­lance ser­vice’s ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee de­cided Wed­nes­day to take bids for an ar­chi­tect to do ren­der­ings and the en­gi­neer­ing plan for a head­quar­ters. A three-per­son sub­com­mit­tee will over­see the pro­ject, the com­mit­tee de­cided.

“I think we need to do this,” said David Dayringer, Fayetteville Fire Depart­ment chief and com­mit­tee chair­man.

Cen­tral EMS is mak­ing do, but the am­bu­lance ser­vice has out­grown its fa­cil­i­ties, Chief Becky Ste­wart said.

“We are at ca­pac­ity,” Deputy EMS chief Steve Har­ri­son said.

The am­bu­lance ser­vice cov­ers Fayetteville, Elkins, Farm­ing­ton, Goshen, Green­land, Lin­coln, Prairie Grove,

Ton­ti­town, John­son, West Fork and Winslow.

The pop­u­la­tion in Wash­ing­ton County and the num­ber of calls for ser­vice con­tinue to climb, Ste­wart said. Calls are at more than 10,000 so far this year, Cen­tral EMS records show.

The com­mit­tee has been look­ing for a new head­quar­ters for more than a year. Mem­bers toured an old Wal-Mart store in Prairie Grove last year and con­sid­ered buy­ing 10 acres at 2030 S. Morn­ing­side Drive in Fayetteville this year.

The new head­quar­ters needs to be about 40,000 square feet, Ste­wart said. A build­ing that size could cost $3 mil­lion to $7 mil­lion, com­mit­tee mem­bers said.

“We must plan for a solid fu­ture,” Ste­wart said.

Op­er­a­tions, ad­min­is­tra­tion and dis­patch are housed along with one am­bu­lance and a main­te­nance crew in Sta­tion 1 on South School Av­enue. The build­ing has maxed out its elec­tri­cal ca­pa­bil­i­ties, Har­ri­son said.

Ste­wart said every cor­ner is be­ing used.

Cen­tral EMS has been in the 10,383-square-foot build­ing about 20 years, ac­cord­ing to county prop­erty records. Should the ser­vice get a new head­quar­ters, the old build­ing likely will be sold, Ste­wart said.

The 1970s build­ing was last ap­praised in 1996 for $315,000, ac­cord­ing to county prop­erty records. Cen­tral EMS also has a 2,380-square-foot train­ing fa­cil­ity nearby where sup­plies are stored. Train­ing and that stor­age would be moved to a new head­quar­ters, Ste­wart said.

Prop­erty records show the ser­vice owns about five prop­er­ties. The new­est is a sta­tion at 3978 N. Oak­land Zion Road that the Wash­ing­ton County Re­gional Am­bu­lance Au­thor­ity bought last year for $145,000. The au­thor­ity is the or­ga­ni­za­tion um­brella of Cen­tral EMS.

The am­bu­lance ser­vice is in a good fi­nan­cial po­si­tion, Ste­wart said. This year’s over­all bud­get is $10 mil­lion.

It has about $1.2 mil­lion in to­tal value of land and build­ings, ac­cord­ing to a fi­nan­cial sum­mary re­leased by the com­mit­tee this month.

As of June, the ser­vice has nearly $400,000 in a fund for fa­cil­i­ties and about $570,000 “cash in the bank,” ac­cord­ing to a fi­nance re­port. To­tal as­sets,

not in­clud­ing prop­erty, build­ings and equip­ment, are at $2.9 mil­lion.

The only long-term debt the ser­vice has is $140,000 for an am­bu­lance, the re­port shows.

The am­bu­lance ser­vice leases three prop­er­ties, in­clud­ing a build­ing in Farm­ing­ton for $3,250 a month to store spare am­bu­lances and park­ing space near Sta­tion 1 for $300 month, Ste­wart said. Cen­tral EMS also rents a sta­tion on Cross­over Road near Wy­man Road for about $700 a month, Ste­wart said.

The com­mit­tee is con­sid­er­ing buy­ing Fayetteville-owned prop­erty up the hill at 833 N. Cross­over Road. The build­ing used to house city fire mar­shals who have moved. It re­cently ap­praised for $162,000.

The City Coun­cil might con­sider sell­ing it next month, Dayringer said. Fayetteville, like all mem­ber cities, con­trib­utes to the am­bu­lance ser­vice. The city pays about $176,000 an­nu­ally.

Even with a new head­quar­ters, Cen­tral EMS plans to keep all 10 of its am­bu­lance sta­tions, which are spread through­out the county, Ste­wart said. Some of those sta­tions are pro­vided by mem­bers.

For ex­am­ple, Ton­ti­town ren­o­vated a build­ing last year to al­low am­bu­lances to be sta­tioned there.

Am­bu­lances are dis­patched to an emer­gency based on which can get to the emer­gency fastest, Ste­wart said.

Cen­tral EMS needs an ar­chi­tec­tural ren­der­ing with a for­mal cost es­ti­mate be­fore con­sid­er­ing whether to buy prop­erty and pur­sue the head­quar­ters pro­ject, Dayringer said. Ste­wart said get­ting a “needs” as­sess­ment for Cen­tral EMS could take the next cou­ple of weeks.

“We have to imag­ine the needs 30 years down the road,” she said.

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