As the Ambulance Authority prepares to close Station 2 the beginning of July rumors and misinformation seems to abound. The authority, which is the governing board of the Emergency Medical Services of Tucker County, wants to assure Tucker County residents, especially those on top of the mountain, that they are not abandoning them.
According to the current President of the Ambulance Authority, Bobby Phillips, the shut-down is strictly economically motivated.
“The station (#2) is costing us. It costs around $1,200 a month to operate out of that location. (Rent and utilities only, personnel cost not in this figure). We no longer can afford that building, it’s costing us too much money. That money could be used for an additional person on the mountain”, Phillips said.
Phillips attributed the fact that the ambulance bay is not well insulated and that it needs to be converted from propane to the nearby natural gas line, for the high cost of operation. Propane costs alone for the past year on Station 2 have exceeded thirty three hundred dollars. Just the propane costs on station 2 is almost what it takes to be housed in both stations one and three combined. He understands that it would be costly for the landlord to fix the building.
The building in which Station 2 is located is owned by Cortland Acres. Administrator Beth Clevenger confirmed that they have leased the building to the EMS for the last twenty years. Cortland built the building specifically for the E.M.S. .
When asked her thoughts on the closing of Station 2, Clevenger had this to say: “We’re disappointed. It’s not going to change our relationship with the E.M.S. we’ll still use their services. As long as they respond in a timely manner, we will continue to utilize their services as we always have.”
Clevenger was asked what Cortland’s plans for the building were, “We have no present plans for the building at this time.”
According to Phillips, “If the building was re-motivated, we would probably stay there.”
He went on to add: “This is not to hurt the mountain. We’re not leaving the mountain, in fact, as soon as we can find a cost effective location, we’ll move back to the Davis-Thomas area.”
Phillips said they are not ruling out their own building, even on their own property if they can find suitable land.
He quoted a statistic given to him by Thomas Volunteer Fire Department Chief DiBacco. “Runs on 93, Corridor H, have increased by 20% and are expected to rise as the corridor is finished.” He added: ” We want the mountain to be adequately covered. That means having a full-time shift on the mountain at Station 3 after Station 2 is closed”.
The closing of Station 2 has brought out strong reactions from the community especially in the Davis and Thomas areas. Both mayors of these communities were reached for comments.
Mayor Drenning of Davis said: “They don’t need to do it. They came one time to our (city) council meeting and never came back. They need to look for some other way to handle things and not shut that one down. We’re willing to work with them but we don’t know what they need us to do.”
Mayor Quattro of Thomas said: “I know very little about it. I know on July 1 we’re turning water off. I don’t think people know too much about it. I can’t imagine them being able to serve the people of the upper part of Tucker County without there being a station on the mountain.”
Sandy Green, Chief of the Canaan Valley Volunteer Fire Department said: “The biggest concern for us in the Canaan Valley and surrounding areas like Stringtown, Laneville, Flanagan Hill, and Canaan Heights area is trying to get more E.M.S. coverage. By closing #2 and moving it out here (to station 3) we will see more coverage. It costs a lot less for them to utilize this station. It makes good fiscal sense. I do think the consensus is as soon as they can find a place in the Davis/ Thomas area, they’ll move. I can’t argue their wishes to move a crew back to the Davis/Thomas area where there’s a higher concentration of population. If that happens it will mean longer response time for our area. We want a well rounded response to this problem.
Commissioner Diane Hinkle was assured that talks are still ongoing between Cortland Acres and the Ambulance Authority. “The goal by closing Station 2 is to actually save money and increase coverage on the mountain. The overall goal for the community is improved services and improved response time which is the same goal the E.M.S. has. We are appreciative that they are willing to examine other options to achieve this goal. The E.M.S. is planning on having four to five day, 12 hour coverage at Station 3 (Canaan). We are all aware of the need for emergency services at Cortland Acres. We hope that Cortland Acres and E.M.S. will continue to work toward a good solution.”
Commissioner Lowell Moore issued this statement: “I have been very reluctant to support the closing of Station 2. However, to manage the financial operations of the Tucker County E.M.S. more efficiently I believe it is necessary to close Station 2 at this time due to the extremely high costs of utilities, mainly propane and electric heat. It is my understanding that the EMS is not cutting any employees or hours and are increasing the hours of service at Station 3 in the Canaan Valley area. Hopefully by fall a suitable place for at least one unit can be located in the Thomas/Davis area. Negotiations are still open at Cortland Acres.”
Upcoming Ambulance Authority President Kathy Kalar echoed the Commissioners statements with: “My understanding is the Cortland Board might be willing to make improvements to the building which would improve utility costs. The Tucker County Ambulance Authority Board would be more than willing to revisit it at that time.”
She went on to assure the public that, “We have not reduced our staging hours on the mountain at all. We are interested in finding EMT/Paramedics that are able to work for us on an on-call, recurring basis. We have recently hired two people in the mountain area.”
Kalar spoke briefly about staffing challenges, “When you have Randolph County paying $3 – $4 more per hour, we have to find ways to maintain staffing levels and retain our staff.”
Kalar is soliciting help from the community at large. “Anyone who knows any viable location in the Davis/ Thomas area or has any input can call and leave a message for us.”
Anyone who wishes more information can call the Ambulance Authority at 304-478-2296 and leave a message.