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County might buy what it could have for free

Commisioners discuss buing building for ambulance staff, constructing new garage

Staff writer

The county is discussing the possibility of buying a Hillsboro building for living quarters for ambulance staff and constructing a two-bay garage for ambulances at an estimated cost of $150,000. In four to five years, it could have ambulance and employee housing free.

The main ambulance at Hillsboro is stored free of charge in the Hillsboro firehouse.

“The backup ambulance is also stored in our second firehouse in the old AMPR building,” Hillsboro fire chief Ben Steketee said. “We store our rescue boats, ladder truck, tanker truck, brush trucks, and the backup ambulance there.”

Steketee said Hillsboro is happy to provide space for the ambulances as a service to the county.

The county now pays $500 a month for an apartment steps away from the firehouse. The distance between the apartment and the firehouse is across a two-aisle parking lot on the north side of city hall.

Emergency Medical Services director Travis Parmley first brought up the idea of buying a north Hillsboro building that used to house a gun shop at a recent county commission meeting. Commissioners at that time told him to gather more information and talk to them again.

That discussion took place Tuesday, with Hillsboro city administrator Larry Paine present to talk to commissioners as well.

Paine said the city plans to build a public safety center after paying off bond issues. Hillsboro’s focus at this moment is repairing its streets.

The city became aware the county was thinking about buying the former gun shop when its owner mentioned to Paine that the building was near to being sold.

Commissioner Randy Dallke said he’s heard for several years that Hillsboro plans to build ambulance housing, but said the county might want to go ahead with buying the building in Hillsboro.

Florence, Peabody, and other towns in the community have ambulance housing equal to Hillsboro’s ambulance station. Marion has a freestanding building.

“We’re trying to build an ambulance system,” Dallke said.

He said if the county buys the building and adds an ambulance garage, then Hillsboro builds a safety center in five years that meets the county’s needs, the county could sell the building and move into the safety center.

“When you step up to a new tier, you’ve got to do the best you can possibly do,” Dallke said.

Commissioner Dianne Novak said she appreciates what Hillsboro is offering, but “who knows what could happen in five years.”

Paine said the city of Hillsboro’s concern is that they haven’t been consulted in the process of discussing buying the Hillsboro building.

“I think this is one of those situations where local governments can work together,” Paine said.

Commissioners Kent Becker and Jonah Gehring said they want to stay with Hillsboro for now.

“My position at this time is to stay hand-in-hand with Hillsboro,” Becker said.

Novak asked Paine if the Hillsboro city council would be willing to give county commissioners a written statement of the city’s plans in five years.

Commissioners tabled the issue to give Hillsboro time to produce that statement.

“I wanted Marion County commissioners to know the city intends to develop a plan that would include police, fire and ambulance services,” Paine said. “We want to join forces to provide superior service and have them involved in the planning for the facility.”

Hillsboro mayor Lou Thurston said the city plans to pay off several outstanding bonds within four to five years, and then will have the money to build the center.

“It’s in everybody’s best interest to have an ambulance housed in Hillsboro,” Thurston said. “We would like to work together.”

Last modified Jan. 22, 2020

 

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