NEWBERRY — Members of the Whitmire community gathered at the Public Safety and Courts Committee meeting Monday night to voice their concerns and ask for reconsideration for the relocation of the ambulance service to the Indian Creek Substation.
In order to find a solution that would benefit everyone, various locations for the ambulance service were considered. One of the locations considered was the old Young Chevrolet building, but the asking price was too high. Another option that was up for consideration was tearing down the old Rescue Squad building.
“Wayne Adams came up with a good point there. If we needed to expand that’s not a great location to expand because the bank is on one side and the street is on the outside. The other location was where the town currently has the trash truck building,” said Michael Thomas, Whitmire councilman and mayor pro-tem.
Thomas said that the option then came in for the National Guard Armory building, a building that was given to the Town of Whitmire in the late 1990s.
“This was a great opportunity to benefit the County as a whole. During one of our meetings it was discussed that if we allowed the County to have the Armory building then there would be a better chance of us getting a 24 hour ambulance service. As the call volumes increased over the years that’s when we got the 12 hour ambulance service. Our main concern is getting citizens 24 hour ambulance service,” Thomas said.
Thomas reported to the committee call logs from Jan. 1, 2017 to Jan. 22, 2018. For Medic 4 the call logs showed there was a total of 237 calls with 214 coming from Whitmire, Medic 3 was called to Whitmire a total of six times, Medic 1 was called to Whitmire a total of 75 times and Medic 2 was called to Whitmire 27 times.
“Looking at the call volume, we need the EMS service. We were told at the Council Meeting it was the only way we could get a 24 hour ambulance service because the other building did not have sleeping quarters,” Thomas said.
Initially the building was supposed to house the Sheriff’s Office Substation, Community Center and a bay addition, but due to unforeseen costs inside of the building these were cut.
“The majority of Whitmire is elderly and they cannot travel. We’ve got to represent our people. We want to keep the ambulance in Whitmire like we were promised whenever it first went through, because that was the verbal agreement,” Thomas said.
County Administrator Wayne Adams followed up on Thomas’ remarks.
“The reason that we refurbished the Armory building was to house the Rescue Squad and EMS. Part of the reason was because the facilities in the Town of Whitmire weren’t really conducive to the 24 hour service. Would it be a better chance if you got 24 hour service in that area if you had decent facilities? Yes. But here’s the big problem that you’re leaving out. You still have half a days funding for the EMS, it’s a very big obstacle,” Adams said. “We’re talking probably about $175,000 a year. So we’re still, with that building there, which is a better place to put the Rescue Squad, we’re still $175,000 away on operating expenses from having 24 hour service in Whitmire that’s just getting pushed aside here.”
Adams added that with the ambulance service being moved to Indian Creek, this will allow a better chance at 24 hour coverage for the area.
“Unless you were to come up with another $175,000-200,000 to have the 24 hour service in Whitmire it’s not going to be up there. It’s still not going to be ideally placed for the greater coverage area. Whitmire is part of a greater coverage area and is not any different from Little Mountain or Prosperity. We don’t have a 24 hour service sitting in Prosperity or in the Town of Little Mountain. This is about the giving the people adequate service that they deserve,” Adams said.
Tosha Clark voiced her thoughts on the relocation of the ambulance service.
“In December 2016 my mother passed away. Possibly, if there was EMS in town at that point in time at four in the morning it wouldn’t have taken them approximately 23 minutes to get to my mother who couldn’t breathe,” Clark said. “Michael (Thomas) was there, our police force was there, we had Rescue Squad there, but it was doing no good. We have elderly in Whitmire that are in the same shape now, we need them there close by. Indian Creek is not close enough. It’s a matter of minutes not 23 minutes. I’m not saying my mom would still be here right now, but I’m saying it’s a good possibility. Is there anything that can change or is Whitmire still going to be on the back burner as always?”
Paul Rowe, a Newberry resident, also took the opportunity to voice his opinion. Rowe will benefit the ambulance service moving closer, but asked the committee to reconsider keeping in mind the residents of Whitmire and the need for the service.
“This is bigger than this meeting, this is beyond an ambulance. Please find some appropriation, please find some closure for these people. Please reconsider because if not then why are we even here? Why are we having a meeting about it when it’s already been said and done? All these people want is some consideration.”
John McCarley, Newberry County EMS director and native of Whitmire, took to the podium to give his perspective on the relocation of the ambulance service.
“What I’m going to say you might not want to hear, but I think the service needs to be at the new location. It’s just a better location and I know you’re all worried about the people of Whitmire, I am too. I am the county director and I have to do what I feel is best for the County and I know that’s not what you want to hear,” McCarley said.
County Councilman Scott Cain said that if the service is moved at least halfway it will optimize the area and what the truck can respond to.
“Nobody ever gets 100 percent of what they want, but if we can meet somewhere in the middle, which I think this does, everybody can benefit,” Cain said.
Reach Kelly Duncan at 803-768-3123 ext. 1868 or on Twitter @TheNBOnews.