Shell Knob ambulance station to get repairs

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Central Crossing Fire District transfers ownership to South Barry County Ambulance District

The Shell Knob ambulance station on Oak Ridge Drive will soon be getting some much-needed maintenance and updating.

According to Ken Cieslinski, board chairman for the South Barry County Ambulance District, about $30,000 will be spent to repair several areas which have fallen into disrepair, aiming to make the building more operable and functional for ambulance staff. The building is believed to be at least 30 years old, and was built by donations.

"It was basically in survival mode," Cieslinski said. "It's like the Cassville station, just a scaled-down version. There are living quarters, a shower, and bathrooms there. There were some windows leaking that are getting replaced, and the heat and air was repaired. Ceiling panels were falling in, the garage doors barely worked and there was really no place for the folks housed there to cook. It was barely functional. The men's room was completely inoperable, so they were sharing a bathroom."

The ambulance district acquired the building from the Shell Knob Central Crossing Fire District.

"We just took acquisition of the building," Cieslinski said. "It's an older building that was owned by the Central Crossing Fire District. Cox was using it, and it was really getting in bad disrepair."

"We are in the process of giving the building to the ambulance district," said Rusty Rickard, fire chief for the Central Crossing Fire District. Their board and our board came to an agreement, with some stipulations. If they decide they don't want the building, they'll give it back to us."

Rickard said as the building began to age and need repairs, it was a struggle to get anything done.

"Going back into the 1990s, we had a contract with Cox as to who was going to do what as far as maintenance and upkeep," he said. "As the building aged, it was quite a struggle to determine who was going to pay for what. We never charged Cox a fee to use the building, and the fire district has always paid to insure it.

"Several years ago, we started demanding a written agreement from Cox saying who was going to be responsible for what, to the tune of them taking care of the maintenance on the building, or start paying us a monthly rental fee and we would maintain it. Eventually, we got a very lengthy [legal] document that my board was not willing to accept."

Rickard said after getting nowhere, the board decided it would make more sense to deal directly with the ambulance district on the care and maintenance of the building, versus the contractor they used.

"We tried and tried to get details worked out, and finally asked [ourselves], why aren't we just dealing with the ambulance district?" Rickard said. "So, we made contact with the district and said, why would it not be in everyone's best interest to transfer ownership to the ambulance district to maintain and whoever they choose to contract with, and the fire district doesn't have to worry about it anymore? So that's what's happening now."

Rickard said the fire district received help in the past covering an insurance deductible for a new roof and siding.

"The ambulance district has been great to work with," he said. "Several years ago, the building had to have a roof put on, so the district and Cox got together and were able to pay the deductible for the insurance claim. They also replaced the siding. So in the last three or four years, work has been done on the outside, and now it needs to be done on the inside. It was getting pretty run down. It definitely needed some updating."

According to Rickard, there is one full-time ambulance in Shell Knob 24 hours per day to respond to emergencies, one reserve ambulance, and if one ambulance gets called out, Mercy attempts to provide another one.

"Mercy has been good to work with, and of course with any changes, there are different ways of doing things," Rickard said. "One of the nice things we've noticed is, Mercy has ambulances in Stone County like near Lampe, and also Carroll County, near Berryville, Ark., so if the Shell Knob ambulance leaves on a call, they're able to float an ambulance over here to cover the area. It used to be, if our ambulance was gone, we might have to wait for one to get here, and from farther away. So, it's nice to have one here a little closer and a little quicker, and it's a little better coverage than what we're used to."

Cieslinski said making the repairs and updating to the building will have a positive effect for the Central Crossing area, and across the board.

"It's going to improve the morale of the people who serve our district for sure, and Mercy is taking care of part of the price tag," Cieslinski said.

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