The Daily Iowan

Johnson County to fund ambulance facility

JORDAN MICKLE

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Because ambulance calls have increased, county officials would like to upgrade their facilities so they can respond more efficiently.

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a plan to create a west-side Iowa City facility on Thursday.

The estimated cost for the two-part project is $426,452. County officials have budgeted for some of the estimated cost and have agreed to supply the remaining funds.

Steve Spenler, the director of the Johnson County Ambulance Service, said ambulance calls have increased 19 percent in the past five years.

The new facility will house the department’s fourth truck and include an office, sleeping room, lounge area, kitchenette, and a parking garage in the first part of the project, said David Kempf, the county facilities director. The second part includes adding two bays to the north end of the facility for additional storage.

At present, the department’s fourth truck is housed in the Secondary Roads Department Facility, which contains a room with a few chairs staffed by two people, Spenler said. Because the vehicle is housed at a different location and the vehicle is exposed to winter weather, response times can be delayed.

Last winter, officials parked the truck outside and were forced to place space heaters around the vehicle. When temperatures dropped significantly, the engines were turned on to keep.

“That kind of delayed our response,” Spenler said.

With the additional building, staff will not have to report to the Iowa City office before picking up the fourth truck.

The remodeling is scheduled to begin Oct. 10 and end Nov. 21.

Spenler said future plans for the facility include keeping the facility staffed and on call all day, every day of the week.

“It’s a positive move forward for the ambulance services,” Spenler said.

Supervisor Pat Harney said the facility will be an asset when the department receives an influx of calls throughout the day — such as during football games or severe weather conditions.

Bids for the facility will take place Sept. 28, and the project will then go back to the board for final approval on Sept. 29, Harney said. Cost is a factor when deciding whether to approve the project, he said.

“If the bids are too high, we may not do it,” Harney said.

Ultimately, he said, he supports the creation of the facility partly because during flooding, there were times when no ambulances could reach the west side.

“Anytime we provide better ambulance services is a plus for the community,” Harney said.

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