Lengthy deliberations over a site for a centralized Emergency Medical Service headquarters for the county concluded on Thursday, July 11, when Bandera County commissioners unanimously agreed to purchase a tract in the Polly Peak area east of Bandera and have an EMS station built there.
Commissioners voted after closed-door deliberations lasting almost an hour to acquire the two-acre tract just west of the Barton Logistics headquarters at 4333 Highway 16 South from Labarton Properties LLC for $1.2 million, officials said.
That price includes the construction of the 8,125-square-foot headquarters building that can sleep eight EMS staffers and hold up to six ambulances and other EMS units.
It not only will be about twice the size of the current EMS center at 1106 Main St. in Bandera, it is more centrally located between the main population centers in Bandera County than the Bandera site and could cut down on the response times that are recorded for some ambulance calls.
It will result in the consolidation of operations at the two EMS centers the county currently operates, shutting down the station in Pipe Creek that is not designed to house paid crews around the clock and has needed regular maintenance. It also will give EMS operations room to expand.
The fact that the new station will close down the Pipe Creek station was a cause for concern for some Lakehills residents, who have argued for months that the county should station an EMS unit there because that area has grown so rapidly and is one of the areas that generates the most calls for EMS service.
Sylvia Metzinger, a Lakehills resident who is part of the coalition that has lobbied for an ambulance in Lakehills, said she worries it could take an ambulance 10 minutes longer to get the Lakehills since no unit will be in Pipe Creek, which is closer to the area where she lives.
In addition to acquiring the centralized EMS station, the county is planning to add a third shift of paramedics and emergency medical technicians to its paid staff during the 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. period each day to deal with the increased call volume that arises during that period.
Metzinger and other Lakehills supporters hopes that crew will be housed in Lakehills, which has a facility ready to house EMS services, at least a portion of the day to get assistance out to the area faster.
The decision on where to station that crew will be left to Calvin Plummer, the county’s EMS director. He said it was possible that the new shift would be based in Lakehills, but he needs to crunch the call volume numbers more to be certain that is the best location for the crew, which will cost about $250,000 to create.
Plummer said he should have a plan on where the new crew will be based in September so the county can start those operations with the new fiscal in October.
County Commissioner Bobby Harris said with two ambulances available for calls in the Bandera area, which produces the most requests for service, it makes sense to place the third shift in Lakehills, which generates the next most ambulance calls after Bandera.
Harris, whose precinct includes Lakehills, said he understands the new shift may need to relocate from time to time to act as a back-up when other ambulances are in service, but he believes the call volume totals will show the area deserves to have an ambulance in Lakehill.
The county has been looking for the best site for the centralized EMS station for about a year. It set aside $900,000 in the budget last year to acquire the site.
County Judge Richard Evans said the additional money needed to acquire the site and build the station should be part of the new budget adopted in September.
The judge said the facility gives the county a good opportunity to improve EMS response times, and Plummer said the consolidation is an overdue change that should upgrade operations.
The EMS director said he understands the building will take about six months to complete, meaning it could be ready for use early next year at the soonest.