Jeff Heuchert, Stratford Gazette
The County of Perth has taken the first step towards building a new ambulance base and archives facility.
Last week, the county put out a call for expressions of interests from landowners to purchase or lease suitable lands for the two facilities.
Perth County CAO Bill Arthur says both projects are a top priority for the county, and he expects both to be budgeted for in 2013 but financed over a number of years. He is hopeful a new EMS base will be up and running by the end of next year.
The search in Stratford for land for a new base, which will serve as the EMS headquarters, has been ongoing for the last year, but staff have been unable to find a cost-effective property that meets the county’s needs.
EMS director Linda Rockwood says the county wants a location that will best serve the residents of Stratford and Perth County well into the future. Factors like ambulance response times, population growth projections and traffic patterns have been analyzed to come up with specific areas the county thinks would be best for a new base. Possible locations have been identified in the east and west ends of Stratford.
Rockwood says the key objective with a new base is maintaining acceptable ambulance response times, which she admits become more of a concern if a location is selected at either end of the city.
“By putting (a base) at one end, then the other end gets cheated, and vice versa,” she adds.
The alternative, finding land outside of the city, could also be problematic. Rockwood notes a base to the east of Stratford, for instance, while improving response times to Perth East, could lead to more service calls from Waterloo Region.
Currently, the administrative offices for EMS are based out of the Festival Hydro building on Erie Street, with ambulances and other vehicles sharing space at the hospital and at the public works yard in the north end of the city. But Rockwood says the arrangement is less than ideal, and could become a problem when the city needs additional space to park its own vehicles.
Additionally, several of the EMS vehicles require a climate controlled environment due to the medication stored inside of them.
“If we can’t put (the vehicles) inside during the cold and when it’s hot out, we have to leave them running, which, environmentally, isn’t a good thing,” Rockwood adds.
The new 12,000 to 15,000-square-foot ambulance base will include as many as five vehicle bays, offices, storage and space for paramedic training. Having all EMS resources together in one location, rather than split amongst bases throughout the county, will lead to better communication and save staff time, says Rockwood.
With architectural designs for the base still being reviewed, Rockwood says a final cost for the project has yet to be determined.
Similarly, there is no cost attached to a possible new Stratford-Perth Archives, which has been operating out of its existing building on St. Andrew Street since the early 1980s and is badly in need of an updated facility to store the county’s historical materials.
The archives recently underwent a roughly $75,000 accessibility upgrade. But Arthur suggests that money might not go to waste, noting if a suitable location cannot be found the building could still be renovated and expanded.
He adds, however, to remain in the current location “is probably not going to be our most economical solution ... so that’s why we’re looking at something freestanding rather than renovating.”
The new archives would be similar to the library with reading and resources rooms. It would come with a long-sought exhibition area and a proper conservation lab for cleaning materials and working on documents that require special care. The largest portion of the facility would be dedicated to long-term storage of archival material with advanced environmental controls.
Presently, a combination of dehumidifiers and window air conditioners are used to maintain acceptable humidity and temperatures levels.
“Our hope,” says archivist Betty Jo Belton, “is that it would be a better environment with proper environmental controls for storing the collection and helping the paper materials and records survive as long as possible.”
The total building footprint is projected at approximately 10,000 square feet and requires parking for 10-15 vehicles.
While a downtown location would be nice, Arthur says the archives could be moved into a more rural area just outside of Stratford if necessary. Either way, it’s a project he suggests residents in the area want to see completed sooner than later.
“It’s very important to the residents of the city and the county to have a good, active archives,” he adds.
Detailed terms and conditions, and a map of preferred EMS locations, can be downloaded from the county website at www.perthcounty.ca/tenders_rfps.
Expressions of interest are being accepted up until Sept. 5.