Size constraints and growing membership have led the Southampton Village Volunteer Ambulance to once again ask the Village Board to consider a new facility for the 60-member organization.
This week, Village Mayor Mark Epley said there has been a serious need for a new ambulance facility for several years, but that a number of factors, such as location, size and price, will have to be weighed before a final decision is made.
For now, he said, members of the ambulance company are working to pull together a proposal for a new building, probably next to the Southampton Village Police Department on Windmill Lane, that will be presented to the trustees later this summer. If the proposal is approved after public hearings and a public referendum have been held, the village and the ambulance company would like to start the bidding process in the fall, to get the ambulance company the facility it needs as soon as possible.
“Once they have the final numbers, they will come in and do a presentation to the board,” Mr. Epley said. “There is no doubt they need something, so we would have to establish a date to vote on the bond, and there is a series of public education pieces that we have to do showing the public the importance of maintaining their equipment and providing an atmosphere that works for them.”
Southampton Village Ambulance Chief Rick Fowler said this week that his volunteers would appreciate the support of the community, noting that they are not proposing something that they want, but something they need to meet the growing demands of the Southampton Village community and conform with regulations regarding medications, training, medical record storage and ambulance maintenance.
According to Chief Fowler, the ambulance company first took over its current space on Meeting House Lane in 1993, when the company incorporated. At the time, there were approximately 20 members. Now, the company has 60 members, making the building too small for them all to attend meetings or training sessions.
“The current space has become inadequate for our use,” Chief Fowler said. “Our membership has more than tripled since 1993. It just comes down to a need for space.”
The chief said the lack of space is affecting the way the ambulance company operates, adding that there is little to no storage at the current facility, meaning new supplies cannot be ordered until they are low or completely gone. It also means they cannot take advantage of better prices for bulk ordering. At the same time, federal law mandates that ambulance companies maintain records of every call for several years in a secure, fireproof safe. With approximately 800 calls a year, Chief Fowler said, the ambulance company is running out of options.
Chief Fowler also said that there are also very specific requirements for how ambulance equipment, medications and tools can be stored. A new facility would make it easier to follow those standards. It would also give the crews space to move around, he said, adding that when both ambulances are in the bays, the truck doors cannot be opened without blocking off a path.
Another problem is parking, the chief said. The current facility has four designated parking spaces for ambulance responders. However, on a call, there are typically more than four people responding, he said, and if there is a second call at the same time, the ambulance company has no place for those responders to park at the garage.
If the new space is approved, Mayor Epley said, it would most likely be placed next to the Village Police station, between the station and the rear of the new dog park. The facility would be much larger than the current two-bay garage, and would allow for ample meeting space and training rooms that could also be used by the police department.
More information, like the price and scale of the project, will be available in the next few months, and public meetings will be held at Village Hall to discuss the proposal.
“It takes a lot to keep an organization like this one going,” Chief Fowler said. “The tiny space we have now is not adequate. We don’t want the Taj Mahal, we just want a building that will suit our needs and some of our future needs as well.”