South County EMS building plan advances

  • South Deerfield Fire Station. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

  • South Deerfield Fire Station. Recorder Staff/Andy Castillo

For the Gazette
Thursday, July 13, 2017

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Deerfield Academy is moving forward with plans to build a nearly $500,000 permanent home intended for South County EMS.

The private school pulled a building permit last month at 88 Greenfield Road, next to the fire station, and Building Commissioner Richard Calisewski said he expects construction on a 4,000-square-foot building to begin later this year, possibly next month. Once completed, Deerfield Academy intends to donate the building to the town, which will in turn rent it to South County EMS.

“We’re really excited and thrilled that Deerfield Academy is doing this donation so we can continue the success of South County EMS,” said Select Board Chairwoman Carolyn Shores Ness July 5.

The building permit describes a 29-foot high, single-story “new wood framed, three bay ambulance garage with attached office and staff area.” Beneath a pitched asphalt roof, footage will be split between the garage and staffing area, featuring a common work area; three office rooms; a dayroom with a kitchenette; two bedrooms; storage areas for medical and janitorial supplies; a bathroom; and one shower.

Construction is expected to cost $484,800, according to the permit as signed by Project Manager Thomas Sharpe, of Deerfield Academy. That number is about $84,000 more than the school initially offered to fund last November, as first proposed by selectman Henry “Kip” Komosa. Since then, Town Administrator Wendy Foxmyn has stressed — because of an important legal distinction — there is no money changing hands in the building’s donation.

The school’s generosity ended years of uncertainty and heated debate about where the regional emergency medical provider, covering about 70 square miles and 10,000 residents in Deerfield, Sunderland and Whately, would call home. Currently, and since its inception in 2014 — the first regional paramedic service in the state — ambulances have been housed at a few different fire stations in the tri-town region including South Deerfield Fire Station, and EMS Director Zachary Smith has an office in Deerfield’s Conway Street municipal offices. With the new building, the service’s operations will consolidate under one roof.

More recently, Deerfield residents at the annual Town Meeting this year voted in favor to lease the 6-acre parcel, valued at $332,300, on which the new building is supposed to be built to South County EMS. At that meeting, voters also changed the land’s zoning from highway department and recreational usage to general use.

If all goes as planned, the three towns are expected pay rent to Deerfield under an agreement based on what’s currently in place for the service’s housing — about $36,000 per year, or about $3,000 each month split between the towns. However, those costs could change based on how much the project actually costs.

“It has to be discussed by the oversight board. Once the building is built, we will have an idea of what the maintenance costs will be. The idea is to set aside some money so it doesn’t drain anyone’s coffers. It is going to be owned by the town of Deerfield, but we want to set aside money, say for a roof replacement, so that all expenses are paid down the road,” Ness said.

“This is amazing. It’s huge. If this wasn’t donated we would be rolling (building) costs into the cost of the EMS service. By not doing that, we can reduce the budget. The impact to the towns will be less and less, but the service will remain top notch,” she continued. To that end, Ness explained the regional service’s $516,057 budget this year — of which Deerfield pays 52 percent, Whately and Sunderland, 48 percent — represents a 15 percent decrease from last year.

Neither Deerfield Academy or South County EMS could be reached for comment on the project. Ness noted that town officials don’t know specifics about the building itself because the town isn’t involved in construction.