Medics base 3 plans moving forward
by Kellen Short
Watauga County is on the hunt for property for a third ambulance base.
The Board of Commissioners set aside funding this fiscal year for a new base near the U.S. 321/U.S. 421 split in Vilas and an additional 12-hour paramedic crew. The outlay was an effort to reduce the lengthier response times in western Watauga County.
County Manager Deron Geouque said Thursday that the county is still looking for potential sites for the new base in hopes of negotiating a purchase.
He said the availability of property in the targeted area is decent, but they are still working to determine the best possible site.
Geouque said in May that he expected it would take at least a year to purchase land and construct a building, and he confirmed Thursday that that timeline was still realistic.
Meanwhile, Craig Sullivan, director of Watauga Medics, said the hiring process is already underway for adding another three to four full-time paramedics. He said some staff already has been hired.
Sullivan said he looks first for part-time medics who want to move to full-time or others with medical training from the Watauga Rescue Squad or other agencies.
"We're probably within a month of having it wrapped up and ready to go," Sullivan said.
He warned during budget preparations that the additional hires are not likely to reduce response times until the new base is available.
Although the call volume is slightly down so far this year, Sullivan said the arrival of winter is likely to boost calls again. Watauga Medics expect to respond to about 5,000 calls this year from its bases on Longvue Drive and between King Street and Poplar Grove Road.
"We're excited about it," Sullivan said of the third planned base. "We need it."