A project to overcome issues with providing quick medical service to more than half the city because of a potential seven-fold increase in railroad traffic is nearing implementation.
The plan involves converting the former Indiana State Police garage into an ambulance station to provide quicker ambulance service to the part of the Seymour east of the Louisville & Indiana Railroad.
In 2013, 63 percent of the runs made by Jackson County Emergency Medical Services crews where east of the 106½-mile north-south rail line.
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The federal Surface Transportation Board is presently considering an application from the Louisville & Indiana and CSX to spend $90 million to upgrade the line, which carries trains between Louisville and Indianapolis.
The board might rule on that application before the end of the year. The upgrade is expected to increase the number of trains from two or three a day using the line to 15 or more. Those trains also could be longer, heavier and faster, and they would also slow the crews in ambulances, which are presently housed at the ambulance service’s main station at 616 W. Brown St., from reacting to medical issues quickly.
That’s why officials with the Jackson County Emergency Medical Service Board have been meeting with state officials about the potential use of the garage, built about 20 years ago, for an ambulance station. The former state police post and garage was left empty when the Seymour district was consolidated with the Versailles District in the winter of 2010.
On Wednesday, board members Jerry Hounshel, Gary Meyer, Dr. George Weir along with Dennis Brasher, the ambulance service’s executive director, met with Sgt. Jerry Williams at Indianapolis. Williams is chief of logistics with the state police.
That meeting produced results, Hounshel said.
“The state has told us we’re the best offer they’ve had,” Hounshel said.
Hounshel said the new station, once renovated, might eventually become the main station for the ambulance, “since 63 percent of the runs last year where from the east side of the tracks.”
Hounshel said the state has agreed to a 10-year lease with provisions to extend it after that time. That’s all the longer the state can lease a building, he said.
He said the state officials have told county representatives they would prefer a governmental entity use the building rather than a private concern.
Hounshel said the three-bay garage will have to be modified because the ambulances barely fit.
To provide more space for crews to move around the ambulances, the bay portion of the garage will be made 10-foot wider and 10-foot longer.
The other part of the building, which once housed the state police lab, will have to be remodeled so it can serve as sleeping quarters for ambulance crews. There also will be a common area and an additional restroom will be needed.
Cooler Design of Indianapolis will be designing the modifications, and officials with that company said the building could be ready for occupancy by the spring of 2015. The station would house initially one ambulance around the clock and a second ambulance for day-time runs.
He said the cost of the modifications haven’t been finalized and cost several hundreds of thousand dollars, but not the $1.5 million the board has been told a new station might cost, Hounshel said.
“We don’t mind putting some money into it,” he said.
The ambulance service has accumulated funds over the years to pay for the project as it did with the Seymour station and similar stations in Brownstown and Crothersville, he said.
The county will not be using the historic state police post building but will probably take care of the mowing and other related needs around the 3.3-acre site, Hounshel said.
“It’s part of the agreement,” he said.