Grand County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) team member Brett Sherman prepared to head off on a call on Wednesday, Nov. 29. Currently housed in three separate locations, EMS is looking to consolidate its operations in one place, and with a new facility. [Photo by Rudy Herndon / Moab Sun News]

In September, a Moab BASE jumper fell 200 feet, landing at the bottom of a cliff.

He survived, in part, thanks to three Grand County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) crew members who hiked up to where the seriously injured man had fallen. They spent the night with him, and tended to his wounds until morning, when a rescue helicopter could arrive.

EMS crew members respond to plenty of outdoor recreation accidents, but the majority – 60 percent – of their calls for assistance are from in-town incidents concerning such things as seizures, heart attacks, or simply not feeling well. Oftentimes, they assist the elderly at their homes.

“We get called for any medical emergency,” Grand County EMS Director Andy Smith said. “Our staff at any time could be on a rope, in a canyon, treating someone injured, or a car accident on I-70. When you start the shift, you don’t know where you’ll end up.”

Currently housed in three separate locations, in “old, out-of-date, high-maintenance,” buildings, EMS is looking to consolidate its operations in one place, and with a new building, Smith said.

The “shed” – where the ambulances are parked – is in a different location than the administrative offices and staff sleeping quarters, which is an inefficient way of operating, Smith said.

“We’re not close to the shed so we don’t get out the door as quickly at night,” Smith said. “We want everything combined. This has been in the works since 2004.”

Smith approached Canyonlands Health Care Special Service District (CHCSSD) chair Kirstin Peterson roughly a year ago about building a new EMS facility on CHCSSD district-owned property – where Canyonlands Care Center, Moab Regional Hospital and the Grand Center are currently located. Canyonlands is a county-owned long-term care facility, and the hospital is a not-for-profit entity.

Although the CHCSSD’s primary responsibility is overseeing the Canyonlands Care Center – Moab’s long-term care center – it can assume responsibility for a wide range of health care needs in the community, Peterson said.

For example, “We’re currently working with the Housing Authority (of Southeastern Utah) to build senior housing on a portion of the property,” Peterson said.

The district will consider the proposed EMS project at its meeting on Thursday, Nov. 30, at 5:30 p.m. at Moab Regional Hospital’s Education Room 3.

“We haven’t taken action yet or officially discussed it,” Peterson said. “It will be a discussion item at our next board meeting … We will definitely entertain this plan.”

The district’s meetings, which are open to the public, are normally held on the fourth Thursday of every month – in November, the meeting takes place a week later due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Smith will give a presentation about the proposed project.

Architectural Reworking

At the Grand County Council’s Nov. 21 meeting, Smith received approval for funding to pay Moab architect James T. Dresslar to rework his existing architectural drawings to fit a new plot of land. County council members voted 6-1, to approve an amendment to a previous contract with the architect.

Dresslar first presented plans for a new EMS building three years ago that would have been built on a different county-owned property, on 100 North. That plan was put on hold after it was discovered there wasn’t enough space for parking.

“At the time, he (Dresslar) designed a beautiful building, met the needs of the department, and as we started going through codes and everything, we realized there was no way to utilize that location with parking requirements and other issues with space,” Smith told council members on Nov. 21.

If the CHCSSD agrees to the land transfer, the architect’s original design will be modified to include room for ambulance parking at the new location. New design work is projected to be completed by mid-January. Once started, construction is expected to take about a year, Smith said.

“We hope to start construction mid-summer,” he said.

Funding for the project will need to be secured first, however. Smith said EMS has money to use toward the new construction, plus it plans to apply for a grant or loan from Utah’s Permanent Community Impact Fund Board (CIB). He also noted another possible funding source – the health-care sales tax that county residents passed last year.

Smith said he hopes that transferring land to the county’s EMS department will be seen as congruent with the mission of the heath care special services district. It’s unclear what the financial terms would be at this point.

Emergency Medical Services operates with the help of 27 volunteers, a full-time administrative staff of four, and paramedics and emergency medical technicians who get paid when they respond to a call.

“Our EMS is the busiest fifth-class (counties with a population less than 11,000) county in Utah,” Smith said. “On a per capita basis, we’re just as busy as Salt Lake City, and Ogden.”

“Last year we responded to 1,103 calls – our highest year on record,” he said. “And we’ll probably break that record in 2017.”

Grand County Council chair Jaylyn Hawks said she’s personally in favor of a new EMS center because it’s “a huge need” in the community.

“The current building is dilapidated, and in need of replacement,” Hawks said.

A new EMS center would include approximately 12,000 square feet, roughly equivalent in size to the current three buildings together.

“A new building will help us serve the community more, and retain staff,” Smith added. “It would provide for a safer and better ambulance service.”

Design work on building to be complete by mid-January

A new building will help us serve the community more, and retain staff … It would provide for a safer and better ambulance service.