Stonington Ambulance Corps to evacuate headquarters

“On the average we have about 475 calls for service,” Hersh said. “Last year there were actually 512 incidents requiring an ambulance.”

The 512 calls included mutual aid to surrounding communities.

The headquarters building is in dire need of repairs, with the driveway and garage floors posing a safety hazard for the members.

According to Hersh, the corps has tried to address the issues over the past several years with no permanent solution forthcoming.

A major problem with delaying repairs is the need for emergency services equipment to be stored inside a facility when the temperature goes below 55. Hersh noted that the repairs need to begin immediately in order to have the vehicles back inside by October.

The building was erected in 1983 by SVAC as a temporary headquarters. The organization is currently responsible for upkeep and maintenance. The highway department has historically maintained the grounds, which are owned by the town.

The corps is currently operating under the terms of a 25-year lease that Hersh said had expired a few years ago.

The driveway and underlying sediment are unstable and unable to support the two ambulances, which weigh three times more than those that were used in 1983. The driveway caved in under the weight of an ambulance in the late 1990s and temporary repairs were made by the town.

Hersh reported that there have been problems with the building since 2000, when building shifts caused gaps in the ceiling.

Again, temporary repairs were made, but the sagging ceiling remains. Wooden blocks are shimming the support columns and the garage floor is sagging.

Problems with the garage floor caused $8,000 damage to one of the ambulances, and its automated leveling system burned out.

The building also needs electrical repairs, replacement of the heating and cooling systems, and adequate bunk, bathroom and shower facilities for volunteers who are on duty overnight.

In order to sustain the department and eliminate risk factors, the corps is planning to evacuate the premises for the remainder of the summer.

Under that plan, one ambulance would be stored at the Stonington Borough Fire Department, with the second possibly stored at the Quiambaug Fire Department. Equipment would be maintained in portable storage units outside the ambulance corps’ facility.

There are downside issues with this plan. Back-in-service times may decrease because of the need to restock offsite. One ambulance would be outside of the service area, and overnight shift coverage would become a problem with Quiambaug maintaining no overnight facilities. Dispatchers would also have to keep track of the changing logistics.

The plan would also require the assisting departments to move some of their own vehicles outside, posing the same cold weather problems.

The corps is paid through billing to patients and service users. The organization also reaches out to the community for donations and is active in fundraising efforts.

The all-volunteer organization operates at significant savings to the town as comparable EMS services are estimated at $1.5 million annually. Disbanding the department would result in decreased response times and no mutual aid to supported departments, posing a significant public safety risk to the community, officials said.

Board of Finance members June Strunk and Timothy O’Brien were absent.

Frishman and the board agreed to review the information presented and if necessary hold a special meeting in the coming weeks to address the issue when all board members were present and able to vote.


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