OSCEOLA COUNTY — Members of the EMS Enhancement Northwest Quadrant Ad Hoc Committee are getting closer to their goal of providing EMS service to the northwest quadrant of Osceola County.

The committee was formed in August, with appointed members including county commissioners Tammy Stoner and Jill Halladay, Sherman Township Supervisor David Eggle, Rose Lake Township Clerk Kevin Draper, LeRoy-Rose Lake Assistant Fire Chief Kirk Edstrom, Tustin Fire Chief Bob Rose and Osceola County Emergency Medical Services Director Jeremy Bebee.

Over a series of meetings, the group discussed multiple service options which differed by the level of service provided and by the amount of hours of service provided. Some of the options included using volunteer fire department staff instead of EMS personnel to reduce costs, while others require a millage to operate.

“The committee did a fine job in a short amount of time,” Stoner said. “I think we have a perfect fit for committee members and I’m very pleased with what the committee came up with.”

Eggle agreed, adding he has positive feelings about the committee and the work the members are doing to create a better system for the northwest quadrant.

“I believe this is the way the issue should have been addressed a long time ago,” he said. “I believe everyone of us has represented the committee with professionalism and to the best of our ability while leaving emotions at the door.”

Option A includes an additional ambulance staffed with two Osceola County EMS employees for 12 hours each day, 365 days each year. The start-up cost would be $123,000, which would include the facility, and its annual operating cost would be $168,629. Operations would be determined by call volume based on historical data.

Option A is the choice Stoner believes may be the best.

“I do think it’s going to be the biggest bang for the buck for the taxpayers,” she said.

According to the committee members, the option also was the most sustainable and would most likely receive the most support among voters across the county.

However, operational hurdles are a factor. GPS tracking would be needed to help central dispatch know when and where ambulances are in service, primary and secondary response areas will change, new health care laws will limit the number of hours part-time employees can work and more paramedic and EMT ambulances will be needed.

Facility locations is another large piece of the puzzle. The committee has compiled a list of tentative sites, including those with vacant lots and existing buildings, in the LeRoy, Tustin and Dighton areas.

The first is located near 18 Mile Road and Mackinaw Trail, which would cost about $436,000 in addition to the cost of the property, which is based on the expense of the Marion EMS site. Although committee members said the location is the best geographically, it is the only site that involved the construction of a new facility.

Even with the expenses, Eggle supports the location.

“The best case scenario would be the option of 18 Mile and Mackinaw Trail,” he said. “It’s a center point of the four townships and it’s valuable for everybody, it’s equitable and fair distribution of services and it has quick access to the townships and freeway.”

A location on Howard Street in Tustin was another option, but may not be as good as first expected, as the building will need extensive renovations. The cost would be about $40,000 in addition to the cost of a new garage and the building remodel.

The Tustin Fire Department and the former Gregory’s Repair in LeRoy are other potential options.

Although the ad hoc committee is fighting against a May deadline for an option to be on the election ballot and is discouraged by the lack of progress at the county commission level concerning the issue, Stoner stays confident that it will be resolved with a positive outcome.

Once the Osceola County Board of Commissioners can decide on an option it prefers, the ball is in the court of the county residents. A request for a millage is expected.

Eggle is hoping for the best result possible.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” he said. “If you clearly look at how the rest of the resources are positioned across the county, the fair vote would be to support it. Hopefully we’ll have equal access to services.”

Currently, the ad hoc committee is searching for bids from firms or individuals that are qualified to provide professional construction consulting services for the preparation of a feasibility study for the development and construction of the base station. Proposals are expected to include space needs, design and cost estimates for the purpose of releasing a future request for proposal for architectural and engineering services.

“This has been a very long road for everyone, but we will keep the issue visible,” Eggle said. “We hope people will support it.”