REED CITY -- Osceola County commissioners continue to look for ways to provide the Emergency Medical Services department with an EMS training room.

Current discussions involve leasing a suite in the Department of Health and Human Services building and renovating it to meet the needs of the training room.

At a meeting Jan. 7, BOC member Mark Gregory presented the board with a bid for renovations from Gerber Construction in the amount of $68,465, or $68 per square foot, the lowest of three bids received.

Gregory is chair of the Health, Safety and Grounds Committee charged with overseeing plans for the EMS training room.

"I think it's a bit high," Gregory said. "I know the EMS funds are separate, and I see the importance and the need for this, but right now we have a spending freeze. Between the cost of the project and having other departments watch their spending, it makes it hard for me to support it."

Osceola County Coordinator Susan Vander Pol said they were originally given an estimate of $100 per square foot for the renovations, so they were surprised when the Gerber bid came back at $68 per square foot.

"Half the building belongs to the county right now, and the other half will eventually belong to the county, as well," Vander Pol said. "Any improvements you make to the building, in essence, you are investing in your own property."

Some BOC members questioned the need to provide a training room for EMS, suggesting instead they use one of the current EMS bases when not being utilized.

EMS director Jeremy Beebe explained that the EMS bases are built as houses to accommodate two people and do not have a large enough space for training classes.

"It would be like having 20 people in your living room and trying to hold a class," he said. "In addition, the bases are fully staffed with three of them in operation 24 hours a day and the other in operation from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., so unless we want to do training after 10 p.m., there is not an empty base to use."

Beebe said the need for a specific room designed for training was necessary for them to be a continuing education (CE) sponsor.

"Through the state of Michigan, we are allowed to provide training and education classes for employees to get CE credits, but we have to provide an actual training room that is inspected and certified by the state," he said. "Right now, we don't have that."

Gregory told the board at the Jan. 22 meeting they had worked out a lease agreement with the health department for the space at $600 per month, but there was some question as to whether the county could legally lease part of the Health Department building.

"We are waiting to find out if the holder of the mortgage on the building will allow the lease of the suite," Gregory said. "They said if the square footage is too high, they can't do it. We will have to be able to secure the lease before we can move forward with any decisions."

The board decided to table the discussion until additional information could be gathered.