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TIERS building project on hold pending agreement on the location, price

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CLAYTON — Plans to build a new home for the Thousand Islands Emergency Rescue Service are up in the air as the towns of Clayton and Orleans ponder whether the community can afford the million-dollar project and where it should be located.

The rescue service for years has been looking to expand and move out of its rented facility on Union Street.

While the cheapest plan would be to add on to the Clayton Fire Department’s building, share infrastructure and spend roughly $1.1 million, Orleans officials want TIERS’s headquarters in their township, which includes the western half of Wellesley Island.

Building a facility from scratch and putting in the necessary infrastructure, however, is estimated to bump up the project’s price tag to $1.6 million.

“We’re living in a station that is nearly 40 years old,” TIERS Director Roland G. “Rolly” Churchill said. “We’re throwing our money away in repairs and heating. Either way, we need a new station.”

TIERS is seeking a $400,000 state Community Development Block Grant to help fund the project, but the competition is high.

The rest would be raised through donations and perhaps more contributions from Clayton and Orleans or even by forming an ambulance district supported by users.

Currently, Clayton and Orleans split the cost 57:43 annually and pay TIERS $105,000 and $79,500, respectively.

The formula is based on call volume, which is split roughly 60:40 between Clayton and Orleans, on average.

Besides the proposed project’s cost, Orleans town officials are questioning whether it’s fair to have the facility in Clayton.

Orleans Supervisor Kevin C. Rarick said the town’s Wellesley Island residents do not get much coverage from TIERS.

The island is served primarily by the Wellesley Island Volunteer Fire Department. When more ambulances are needed, Jefferson County Dispatch calls Guilfoyle Ambulance Service, Watertown, which has an ambulance post nearby in Alexandria Bay, and then TIERS if Guilfoyle also is swamped.

Regardless of whether the building project moves forward, TIERS is mulling the possibility of stationing an ambulance or fly car during the daytime, three days a week, in either the Fishers Landing or LaFargeville fire station for faster emergency response in Orleans.

With many details still uncertain, the towns of Clayton and Orleans plan to continue the discussions on whether and how to fund the TIERS project.

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