EMS discusses housing and equipment needs

JOHNSBURG With the total number of emergency calls doubling in the last five years, and a 100 percent first toned response rate, the Johnsburg Emergency Squad has grown considerably since its creation in 1993. While the squad has coped with increased demand for their services and increased expenses the tax-payer funded organization will soon face new challenges. The issue of housing recently came to light during a Town of Johnsburg board meeting. Currently, the squad responds from a renovated section of the town-owned Scout Hall in Sodom. With room for only two of the squads three ambulances, a 60 square-foot office, and cramped living quarters, its becoming apparent to Squad officers that the issue can no longer be ignored. Continued changes to New York State Department of Health regulations, including increased equipment requirements and record-keeping security, have compounded the issue considerably. While the squad copes with several external factors, the issue of providing an adequate and comfortable facility for its members also remains a top priority. During the summer the squad maintains one full-time paid crew with a second crew added during the winter ski season. A lot of our members come from out of town, Johnsburg EMS Captain Tara Sears said. So when they are working they have to stay overnight in the squad building. It creates very cramped and uncomfortable conditions and is part of the reason why we cant recruit and retain new members. While concerns about the facility have been building for some time, a clear solution to the problem has not been found. Weve been hashing it around with the town for quite a while, Sears noted. The town cant just give us the entire building, it wouldnt be fair to the townspeople, and its not clear whether adding onto it would be feasible or not. At this stage were weighing our options including whether we are better off moving to a new location. A parallel issue of storing one ambulance in the North Creek firehouse also looms in the background, as that agency faces its own potential expansion as major developments move into the area. Sears also remains concerned whether Sodom is the best location for the squad and if a relocation would help them respond faster to distant points like North River. As the group continues to publicly discuss their concerns, they are also quick to acknowledge the economic factors faced by the entire community. We understand the financial turmoil the town is in and the squad is in a similar position, Sears added. In the near future we will have to start looking at replacing our ambulances due to their age and mileage so we have to consider that too. This parallel issue was highlighted in a recent letter from EMS Chairman, Joe Connelly, to the Johnsburg Town Board. We currently operate three ambulances, a 2005 with 63,000 miles, a 2002 with 105,000 miles, and a 1998 with 115,000 miles, Connelly wrote. We are determined to keep these rigs going as long as we can. At the same time our ambulance committee is diligently researching every ambulance manufacturer, so that when the times come we will find the most economically practical rig on the market. Commenting on the inadequacy of the facility, he also pointed out a common misconception regarding the agencies funding. It [the facility] does nothing to encourage people to stay and wait for calls, yet any money we make must go to payroll and operations first. In 2006-7 we raised $34,000 fund raising from the community. In 2007-8 weve received $61,750 in grants. This money has gone directly towards major equipment upgrades, defibrillators, radios, and turnout gear, much of it demanded by law. While the squad maintains that conditions are not yet critical, they hope to make the town and public aware of the issues they will soon be facing. Were not at the stage of asking anyone for money or making any plans. We just want to get these issues out there for discussion so everybody knows what is going on, Sears concluded.

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