OSCEOLA COUNTY — Despite concerns from disgruntled northwest county residents, the Osceola County Board of Commissioners will move forward with plans to build an Emergency Medical Services base in Marion.

At its Tuesday morning meeting, the board directed the contracted architectural firm, Hooker and De Jong, to move forward with design plans for the estimated $444,000 project on a 1.8 acre-site in the Marion industrial park.

The board voted in November to build a base in Marion that would house the ambulance crew and vehicle under the same roof to increase response times. Currently, an ambulance is housed in the Marion fire station and the crew stays in a nearby house.

The board began discussing the construction of an additional EMS base in the county years ago. During the process, plans have been met with concerns from northwest county residents wanting increased service in their area, including four individuals who expressed concerns at Tuesday’s meeting.

At a December meeting, additional options were discussed, including holding off on Marion site plans to focus on improving EMS response times in the northwest quadrant.

“Eight blocks away (from the Reed City EMS base), if I call 9-1-1, I might not get the Reed City ambulance. I might have to wait for one from Evart or Marion,” said board chair Larry Emig.

“The issue is having reliable service everywhere in the county, not just where the (building is located).”

Rob Gustafson, project engineer for Hooker and De Jong, presented the board with an 80 percent complete plan and encouraged commissioners to confirm the desired location of the base.

“The big push would be to choose the sight, so we can locate the building on the site (in the plans) and finish the last 20 percent,” Gustafson said. “If we change sites, and the building needs to be changed, that’s a significant (delay) in the project.”

The structure, which will cost an estimated $379,000, will include a heated garage, two bathrooms, sleeping quarters, a kitchen and living space.

To complete designs for the project, Hooker and De Jong will finish building schematics specific to the Marion site, complete final paperwork, hold a three- to four-week bidding process for contractors and present final bids for board approval.

In an effort to hold off on the Marion site plan, comissioner Tammy Stoner, of District Two, representing much of the county’s northwest quadrant, made a motion to not move forward with construction of the Marion base until a plan was made to increase EMS service to the northwest quadrant. The motion was defeated by a vote of 5-2 with Stoner and commissioner Pam Wayne voting yes.

EMS Interim Director Jeremy Beebe encouraged the board to focus on increasing service in one area at a time.

“I think putting the Marion crew and housing together and service to the northwest quadrant are separate issues,” Beebe said.

“My opinion is we move forward with this (Marion site plans) and keep moving forward with the northwest quadrant.”

Gustafson estimated construction on the Marion building would begin in early summer and the facility would be available for use in spring or summer of 2014.

The board will continue to look into options to increase service to the northwest quadrant, including directing Beebe to visit the Tustin and LeRoy Fire Departments — which are in the northwest quadrant — to discuss housing ambulance and crews there. Expanding the service may include asking voters to approve a millage to support hiring a fourth EMS crew.

The next meeting of the Osceola County Board of Commissioners will be at 9:30 a.m. on Feb. 5 at the Osceola County Courthouse.