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Town of Watertown Ambulance Service readies second station

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The town of Watertown Ambulance Service soon will be able to improve service on the town’s southeast side with the addition of an office on outer Washington Street.

For the past several weeks, a combination of ambulance squad members, volunteers and town of Watertown Fire Department personnel has been working on getting some office space and a garage ready for occupancy in the former Grenadier Construction Corp. building at 18535 Route 11.

David C. Roof, the ambulance squad’s president, said Wednesday that TWAS will be leasing the space from William F. Caprara and his family. Mr. Roof said he hopes the ambulance squad will complete the move by the end of the month.

The squad needs the second location to serve Samaritan Medical Center’s 288-bed Samaritan Summit Village, which will open down the road on Route 11 next winter, Mr. Roof said. The squad will provide 24-hour service for the assisted-living and skilled-nursing facility, he said.

“It’s really a good fit for us,” he said.

The nonprofit ambulance squad has provided service to town of Watertown residents since branching off from the Fire Department in 2008.

The ambulance squad shares space in the Fire Department’s satellite station on Route 3 on the town’s west side, where it serves Salmon Run Mall and numerous other retail businesses. With the new site, response times on the southeast side will be reduced from “a worst-case scenario” of 10 minutes to about a minute, Mr. Roof said.

The ambulance squad will continue to operate out of the Route 3 station after the Fire Department vacates the site for a new fire station at Route 12F and County Route 202 later this year, Mr. Roof said.

At this point, an ambulance will be housed at each site, he said, adding that it has not been decided which one will be the squad’s main headquarters.

Work at the new site has consisted mostly of cleaning and some minor modifications to the building, which has been vacant for a couple of years, Mr. Roof said. The space will include a reception area, an office, two bedrooms, a lounge, a kitchenette, a restroom and storage space.

He recently approached the Town Council about a continuing problem with collecting payments from users with private health insurance. For the first six months of this year, the service has accumulated $25,300 in unpaid bills, up from $24,934 for all of 2011.

That situation caused Councilman Edward Smith to question Wednesday whether the ambulance squad will need further financial assistance for the second location.

“You still have to go to the well if it stops raining,” said Mr. Smith, who added that the town should not provide any more financial backing.

Under a three-year contract that expires in December 2014, the town is paying the ambulance squad $150,000 per year for the service. The town also provided a controversial $50,000 grant to help get the ambulance service off the ground.

Providing around-the-clock service 365 days a year, the squad consists of 14 paid and 17 volunteer staff members. Last year, it had a $316,000 annual budget that comes from user billing, fundraising campaigns and donations. Since 2008, the ambulance service has gone on about 5,000 calls.

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