WHITMIRE — Newberry County Councilman Scott Cain addressed Whitmire Town Council during Monday’s meeting to hear the town’s concerns in regards to the ambulance service moving to Newberry.
The Town of Whitmire is not in favor of this decision and is asking for reconsideration. The Town of Whitmire’s intent when they acquired the Armory Building was to eventually have a 24 hour ambulance service in Whitmire. If this building becomes vacant, it will revert back to the Town of Whitmire.
“The way we’re talking and the way that it was voted was everybody on Council was thinking we were just following through with what was decided, really back in 2010. When they built the substation on Hwy. 121 and 176 the intended purpose was to put the EMS full-time up there,” said Cain.
“What that does is it will give this area, at some point, the option of going to 24 hour coverage for the area,” he said. “What we’re looking at is if there is the possibility to get 24 hours out of the substation, then you’ve got about an eight or nine minute drive time 24 hours a day instead of a couple minutes drive time in town, but looking at about 25 minutes to get to the hospital.”
Councilman Michael Thomas shared his concerns with Cain, saying when the project first started that multiple locations were considered, but prices were too high.
“County Council looked at the Armory Building as a possibility and came to us asking for the possibility for EMS because the building across the street didn’t have any showers or bedrooms, pretty much not a fit for EMS services. So the question was asked ‘Is this a better chance for us getting 24 hour ambulance?’ When we were spoken to in 2010-11 we were told yes,” said Thomas.
Thomas added that the building on Main Street was not sufficient to become a 24-hour ambulance location. He added that if armory spending money was accessed out of the general funds, not the One Cent Sales Tax, then the Town of Whitmire would be able to have a 24-hour ambulance.
“The substation was proposed on Indian Creek and was even advertised through the meetings and proposing it to our citizens also. It was never mentioned of moving the EMS out there, it was talk by groups of people of a spot for EMS to go out there. I met with ISO a week ago and I spoke to Tommy Long, emergency services coordinator. Their plan is to eventually hire some firemen and that will be a station for firefighter’s being paid,” said Thomas. “If that’s the case and you want to move EMS out there, how are you going to have EMS and paid firemen there when the building is not that sufficient? I’ve had a lot of people complaining to me saying you’re taking the ambulance, where you’ve got Whitmire with around 3,500 people in the area in the 29178 zip code it is around 5,000 people.”
Looking back on call volume reports from September 2016 to August 2017 the Whitmire fire truck received 144 calls to date. From Jan. 1, 2016 to August 2017, there were a total of 369 calls for the truck in Whitmire alone, not counting the three other trucks in the county.
“Why spend over half a million dollars to renovate the armory when it was told to us that we were going to get a better chance getting a 24 hour ambulance service, and now the case is coming up that we’re going to scratch that and then move it out 12 or 15 minutes down the road. So pretty much, the whole right side of the building that you spent renovating a bedroom, shower, day room and kitchen will go to waste,” said Thomas.
Thomas also said that this is putting the people of Whitmire at risk.
“To me, I think it’s wrong that it was done and voted on before being proposed to us, even making the motion to move before going to City Council and saying what your intentions are and what are our feelings instead of just doing it without us knowing,” said Thomas. “The building was named Whitmire Public Safety. The initial plans were Whitmire Rescue Squad, Newberry County EMS, Sheriff’s Office substation and also a community center area.”
Cain said he has gotten the Public Safety in Courts sub-committee involved to discuss the issue. The sub-committee will be meeting Oct. 9. Cain said he would like to reschedule since it falls on the Town of Whitmire’s October meeting so Council can attend.
Reach Kelly Duncan at 803-768-3123 ext. 1868 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.