Once again . personnel respond to emergency calls from their headquarters on Kings Highway in Congers. Although the official opening of the new building is not until mid-October, the volunteers eagerly moved in at the end of August and began organizing the ambulance bays, supply rooms and office space.
“We used to refer to our temporary quarters as the dorm room,” said Steve Gray, second lieutenant for training. “It is very nice to be in a real building again. It’s nice to have a home again. This feels a lot more professional.”
Ambulance Corps President Gregg Smith and Gray proudly and happily showed off the new facility, which replaced an outdated 50-year-old building. The garage of the new headquarters provides ample space for three fully equipped ambulances. The old garage was not tall enough for the newest vehicle and could not fit all three of the corps’ rigs.
The corps had been operating out of a temporary facility on Route 9W in Congers for more than a year while its old headquarters was demolished and the new structure built. Work was delayed for several weeks when the original contractor went into default and a replacement firm had to be found.
The multi-level building also provides space for storage areas, an oxygen room, decontamination area, decontamination showers, separate dormitory rooms and showers for male and female staffers, a file room, board room, training room exercise room, lounge area and a large meeting hall that will eventually have an adjacent commercial kitchen. While a base radio broadcasts 911 dispatch calls throughout the building, the dorm rooms are also equipped with strobe lights and beeps to make sure sleeping EMTs wake up.
Smith said the plans for a new building originated about 10 years ago and the construction was to be financed by the corps. That did not work out and the town stepped in to assist with financing the project through bonds. Smith said they were very thankful for the town’s assistance.
Next Thursday, Sept. 13 will be the corps’ first full meeting in the new headquarters.
There are 48 active riding and non ambulance-riding members who are volunteers. The corps also has had paid staff since 2009 to make sure there is coverage for weekday emergency calls. Congers-Valley Cottage was the last corps in Rockland County to hire paid employees.
“We have obligations to the town to have 24 hour, seven day service. We have nine paid employees,” said Smith. “They are all per diem. They are part-time employees.”
Smith said he hopes the new building draws more volunteers. He and others noted the commitment required to be an EMT. The required training used to take 24 hours. It has increased to 200 hours plus 24 hours of continuing medical education every year.
“It’s a big commitment of time,” said Gray, noting it has been difficult to get volunteers because people are working longer hours due to the economy and tend to take paid EMT positions if they are trained.
As the corps members work toward setting up the inside of the building, in the future there will be an important outside addition. A local Boy Scout wants to create a 9/11 Memorial Garden for his Eagle Scout project. A piece of steel saved from the attack on the World Trade Center is stored in the building ready to be placed in the garden.