EMS offices on life support

County agrees to support agency’s pursuit of CIB loan

The old Melich House on 100 East, current home of Grand County EMS.
Photo by Doug McMurdo

The roof covering the building at 520 East and 100 North leaks like a colander. Ceiling tiles are missing. A few more are water-stained. The carpet is ripped and loose and handwritten notices taped to the floor warn visitors of the potential tripping hazards.

The Friends of the Library operate out of here. So do the folks from the Sand Flats Recreation Area and the American Legion. It used to be home to the senior center and was a place the community gathered to dance.

It’s also home to Grand County Emergency Medical Services, which became a standalone Special Service District Jan. 1. Other buildings associated with EMS are also dilapidated.

On Tuesday, April 2, EMS Executive Director Andy Smith hosted six Grand County Council members in a tour of the agency’s facilities. The administrative offices on the hill next to the Rockridge Senior Housing complex were, arguably, not the worst he had to show.

There is an old white house with an old shake roof and weedy front yard on 100 East, west of the ambulance bay – which itself is next to the Grand County Courthouse – that was slated for demolition before EMS claimed it to house paramedics and EMTs. Smith said about $2,000 was put into what is known as the old Melich home, although the house was targeted for razing, and it was like throwing good money after bad.

Smith has a two-part plan to improve those facilities, but he needs the council’s support in pursuing a loan through the Community Impact Board, which derives the revenue it distributes to local governments through mineral royalties.

“The best option is a remodel on the hill,” said Smith. “We have to come up with an agreement with the county, either to lease or sell the property. Most likely a lease agreement.”

Smith said the construction of a $2.5 million, 8,000-square-foot metal building on the same site as the current building would be phase one, and phase two would be the remodel – at a cost that has not been determined.

The new building would include several bedrooms, which would allow crews to move out of the dilapidated house on 100 East behind the ambulance bay.

Grand County Clerk/Auditor Chris Baird recommended the council use as a template the county’s lease with the Museum of Moab, which he said calls for the museum to pay a symbolic penny a year for rent while the county retains the property and all improvements. The State of Utah, he said, considers special service districts such as EMS components of county government.

Elizabeth Tubbs, chair of the EMS board of directors, said the board would “need assurances” the council would offer a longtime lease and not force EMS to leave the building prematurely, especially after the agency spends $2.5 million for the new building “and however much more” to remodel the existing one.

“We want EMS to succeed,” said a conciliatory Grand County Council Chair Evan Clapper. “Our priority is to take care of citizens. I think I can speak for the council … the district has council support.”

The council formally backed up Clapper’s assurances later on Tuesday when, during their regular meeting they unanimously agreed to make paying for the EMS needs the first of 17 priorities it plans to support for CIB funding.

Smith said EMS has “cash set aside” as a potential match to a grant, but he expects the majority of the funding to come from CIB loans. Grants are not as available as they once were, noted Baird.

There are other issues to negotiate, such as a needed parking variance from the City of Moab, and a lot line the city and county share needs to be amended. Also, there are drainage issues to address and a zoning change Smith said the city is “amenable to making.”

Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan will oversee the drafting of the lease agreement using the county’s agreement with the museum as a guide. Clapper noted that Sloan has been very responsive to the council since taking office earlier this year.

Smith emphasized timing is a factor. The deadline to submit applications for CIB loan requests is June 1.