Joint EMS/fire station being considered

Robert Houk • Dec 28, 2018 at 12:00 AM

The Washington County Commission has agreed to help pay for conceptual drawings of a proposed emergency medical services/volunteer fire station near the county’s industrial park off U.S. Highway 11E.

Commissioners voted earlier this month to split the $30,000 architectural cost with the Washington County/Johnson City Emergency Medical Service.

Once the plans are drawn, EMS Chief/Executive Director Dan Wheeley hopes Washington County will agree to partner with his organization to build a new station on land it has leased from the county on Stockyard Road. The project would include a training facility for volunteer firefighters, as well as an additional bay to accommodate a fire engine for the Limestone Volunteer Fire Department.

Wheeley has told commissioners relocating the Limestone engine to the new joint station will decrease the VFD’s response time for a fire engine in that part of its coverage area. Firefighters could respond directly to the new station rather than wait for an engine to arrive to the area.

“The relocation of the EMS and fire units directly across from the industrial park will also provide an additional benefit when recruiting businesses to the industrial park,” Wheeley wrote in a letter to the county’s Public Safety Committee in October.

Wheeley said the new location has “ample room” for additional training facilities for the EMS and fire services, such as a live burn tower and a car fire simulator. 

He said EMS has the funds to proceed with construction of a new ambulance station, but would need help to cover an additional bay for a fire engine and a VFD training room.

Regardless of what the county eventually decides, Wheeler said the EMS intends on building a new ambulance station on Stockyard Road to replace a metal building that is one of his organization’s oldest facilities.

“It’s hard to get onto the four-lane,” Wheeley said of the current Station 5, which is  at 2737 U.S. Highway 11E.

Washington County Mayor Joe Grandy said Thursday commissioners are eager to explore the possibility of joining the EMS on the project. Commissioners voted Dec. 17 to contribute $15,000 to cover half the cost of a design plan for the project.

Grandy said county officials are now looking to determine the “true costs” of a joint EMS/VFD station.

“It’s a great location,” Grandy said. “We will take a look to see if it’s feasible for the county to participate.”

Officials hope to have design plans ready for the county’s consideration in March.