Following months of work between the town of Harrells and Sampson County officials, a contract is now in place for the lease of the substation in the southern end of the county.
As of July 1, Harrells Community Service Inc. was dissolved and everything turned over to the town of Harrells, requiring a new lease between the town and county be approved.
“It basically gives us somewhere to stay, to put our ambulances, and gives us the facilities,” said Emergency Management director Ronald Bass. “We have nothing else in that area. When the Harrells volunteers went out of business, the building went to the Harrells Community Service Inc. and we were paying them $500 per month for the use of the building.”
That EMS building, located at 891 Ward Road, Harrells, changed hands again a couple months ago. The deed was transferred from Harrells Community Service Inc. to the town with a verbal agreement that the facility maintain housing for the county EMS squad.
“We want the county EMS squad to remain in place, and thankfully we are now able to control the building where they are located to better ensure their continued presence with us and the services they provide to our community and surrounding areas,” Mayor James Moore said recently.
The discussion came up, and was signed off on unanimously, during the consent agenda portion of the Sampson County Board of Commissioners’ last meeting. The issue had permeated discussion by the Harrells town board for quite some time.
The $500 per month would add up to $6,000 per year, keeping the EMS equipment and trucks at the Harrells site. Town officials said the $500 payment would cover most of the monthly expenses incurred from the building. The county pays the telephone service for the building, while the gas bill and trash collection is taken care of by the town, Bass noted.
During the county board’s meeting, Commissioner Albert Kirby did inquire about the $500 monthly fee and asked why it would not be lower.
“Maybe in these economic times, maybe I’m being a little too conservative, but if we’re there for the purpose of serving that community, why would they charge us that amount?” Kirby asked. “We’re there for the purpose of dealing with emergencies right there in that area. We’re there doing a service. If the purpose is to save lives and help people in that area, it seems to be counter-intuitive to charge the county to have them there.”
Commissioner Jefferson Strickland asked what the situation was for other communities in Sampson.
In addition to Harrells, Bass said Sampson County EMS currently has facilities made available to them at Roseboro Rescue, the Plain View area, Halls and Newton Grove and Garland. There are either volunteers working with fire departments and rescue squads at many of the sites. Harrells is an exception.
“Since Garland is a rescue squad we do not pay them anything,” Bass said. “We are there to assist volunteer squads. There just happens to not be one in Harrells.”
Halls Fire Department is paid $250 per month for quick response vehicles (QRVs) to be there at night, half of what will be paid to the town of Harrells. “The only two we pay are Harrells and Halls Fire Department,” said Bass. “The reason it is only half for Halls is there is just a QRV there 12 hours per day.”
Kirby still raised concerns with the county doling out money to be able to offer a service in a more efficient way to Harrells and the surrounding community.
“Paying them would be almost like paying somebody to go bury buckets of money in your backyard,” said Kirby. “I think there’s immense value having the rescue squad there in that area. It seems to me that it would be counter-intuitive to charge rescue people to be there to take care of folks who are in that area. It seems to me you would say ‘;you stay here for free,’ because if momma has a heart attack, I want you close by.’”
The EMS building has two bays, a sizable classroom and several bunk rooms, along with multiple storage areas and a large kitchen. The Harrells Board of Aldermen agreed in early August to inquire about obtaining preliminary design and estimates for needed improvements to the building, which would allow for a heating and cooling upgrade and improvements to living quarters.
Moore said the town’s top priority is to keep the county EMS in Harrells, with other priorities being to maintain the building for efficient use and also utilized as much as possible by the Harrells community.
“This is what we have to keep in mind as we move along with this new project for the town,” said Moore. Bass said that Sampson EMS would likely be alongside Harrells in making any renovations to the old building they saw fit.
“Right now, we have the use of that whole building,” added Bass. “My understanding is in the future they’re going to possibly do some renovations. We will share with the town of Harrells whatever they chose to pay in there.”“
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at email@example.com.