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story.lead_photo.caption NWA Democrat-Gazette/FILE PHOTO A Central EMS ambulance returns to headquarters on South School in Fayetteville.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Central Emergency Medical Service officials chose Wittenberg, Delony & Davidson Architects to do a rendering, cost estimate and engineering plan for an ambulance service headquarters.

The Washington County Regional Ambulance Authority's executive committee picked the firm out of three narrowed by a subcommittee earlier this month. Central EMS staff recommended the firm as well.

Ambulance coverage

Central Emergency Medical Service covers 920 square miles in Washington County, including Fayetteville, Elkins, Farmington, Goshen, Greenland, Lincoln, Prairie Grove, Tontitown, Johnson, West Fork and Winslow. The service doesn’t cover Springdale.

Source: Central EMS

A cost estimate for how much the firm will charge won't be ready until Central EMS develops a needs list for the firm, said Steve Harrison, assistant chief. The company will then provide an estimate for its costs.

Hiring the firm is the first step to decide whether to move forward on building the project, said David Dayringer, Fayetteville Fire Department chief and chairman of the Washington County Regional Ambulance Authority executive committee. The cost estimate will determine if and how Central EMS will pay for the project, he said.

Officials have estimated the building to cost up to $7 million but a formal cost estimate is necessary, Dayringer said.

Even so, Central EMS employees already are looking at funding options, including seeking a bond of up to $6.5 million. The bond, if approved, would cost Central EMS about $38,000 a month for the next 30 years, Finance Director Owen McAdoo said.

Paying that amount without a new revenue source is risky, said Becky Stewart, Central EMS chief. It would eat into cash flow, she said. The ambulance service has $567,917 in the bank, according to the most-recent financial records.

Money for Central EMS comes, in part, from membership fees Washington County and cities pay. Those fees subsidize the roughly $10 million budget but don't cover most of it, Stewart said. Fees for service make up about 80 percent of what it costs to operate the service.

The system may need re-evaluation and Central EMS may need to ask voters for a sales tax, said Glenn Morgan, committee member. The committee plans to present financial options to the board early next year, when the firm plans to have finished its rendering and estimate, Stewart said.

Stewart said Central EMS needs a new headquarters, in part, to meet demand.

Call volumes continue to increase, going to 21,056 last year over 17,834 the year before, according to the 2016 annual report. That trend is expected to continue, Morgan said.

The new headquarters also would increase efficiency by letting Central EMS house operations, training, storage and other services in one location, Stewart said. The new headquarters is expected to meet the area's needs for the next 30 years, she said.

NW News on 10/19/2017

Print Headline: Central EMS committee picks architects

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