Two local health care providers have combined forces in an effort to overcome potential issues with providing rapid medical service to more than half of Seymour if rail traffic increases seven-fold as expected.
The plans involve converting the former Indiana State Police garage into an ambulance station to provide quicker service to the part of the Seymour east of the Louisville & Indiana Railroad.
The project has been in the works since 2014 when the Louisville & Indiana and CSX railroads first announced plans to spend more than $90 million to upgrade the L&I line that runs from Louisville to Indianapolis. That 106½-mile line cuts the city nearly in half.
County councilman Joseph Bowman of Seymour discussed the issue Wednesday during the council’s monthly meeting.
Bowman, the council’s appointee to the board of Jackson County Emergency Medical Services, said hospital officials are pursuing the purchase of the site through the state and would pay the appraised value minus 10 percent for the 3.08-acre property at 721 E. Tipton St. once a deal is worked out.
The 10 percent difference would be used to take care of environmental issues related to buried fuel tanks on the property, Bowman said.
Debbie Ridlen, vice president of fiscal services for Schneck, confirmed Thursday afternoon that the hospital is working with the state police to possibly purchase the property for use as an ambulance station.
“There is nothing finalized,” Ridlen said. “We’re still in discussions and negotiations.”
Ridlen said hospital officials are concerned about what the possibility of increased rail traffic along the Louisville & Indiana might mean to patients who need services and live east of it when trains are moving through the city.
“We’re worried about how that might impact patient outcomes,” she said.
In 2013, 63 percent of the runs made by Jackson County EMS crews were east of the rail line.
Because both the hospital and ambulance service are county entities, there would be few if any issues to resolve between the two, Ridlen said.
Schneck also would be willing to work with the ambulance service to ensure the garage would have adequate facilities for ambulance crews who generally work 24-hour shifts, Ridlen said. The garage lacks showers and are not designed for living quarters.
County attorney Susan Bevers said the hospital and Jackson County EMS would have an agreement similar to the one in place for the ambulance’s present Seymour station at 616 W. Brown St. The hospital owns the land and building and allows the ambulance service to run its operations there.
She said the hope is the purchase could be wrapped up this spring, although the hospital has to work with two agencies, the state police and the state department of administration, to complete the purchase.
The idea of converting the garage at the state police post into an ambulance station arose in 2014 after the two railroads announced plans to spend $90 million to upgrade the line. The L&I owns the line, but CSX also uses it.
The U.S. Surface Transportation Board approved proposed upgrades to the line in April 2015 after a lengthy study of how it would affect communities along its path.
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.
Some of the 14 rail crossings in Seymour could be closed as part of the upgrades.
There also has been some discussions about building an overpass over the rail line south of the city. That project, which has a price tag of about $30 million, would take years to complete.