A new $6.5 million, 15,500-square-foot facility for the Exchange Ambulance of the Islips has drawn some criticism from a resident, who is campaigning for the building to be renovated instead for less money.
The Town of Islip owns the building on Carleton Avenue in East Islip where the ambulance exchange is headquartered. In November, the town board narrowly approved its $45.7 million capital budget plan, which included a new facility for the ambulance company.
The debt service on the new building is estimated to cost $14 per taxpayer in the four districts served by the ambulance company — Islip, East Islip, Islip Terrace and Great River. There is also a one-time $19.24 increase to cover engineering and design costs.
The new facility is needed because of the current building’s state of disrepair, as well as an increase in the company’s response rate in the past couple of decades, said Robert Stadelman, vice president of the ambulance company.
“In the last 26 years, our call volume more than doubled, and the building never was designed for that call volume,” he said. “We’ve physically outgrown the structure,” he said, citing added emergency response vehicles that don’t fit in the building’s garage bays.
He said the building’s office and kitchen areas were built poorly when originally constructed in 1990.
“That portion of the building was not built as designed and as a result of the missing structural elements, the front and rear walls are spreading out,” Stadelman said.
Islip resident Greg Pepe, who complained about the cost of the building to the Islip Town Board at its January board meeting, said repairs are possible and for much less than $6.5 million.
He cited a 2000 engineer’s report on the building that “the roof structure does not meet the requirements of the New York State Building Code. The remainder of the building is in sound structural condition.” The report by H2M Group concluded that the building’s roof could be repaired for $165,000.
“Why spend $6.5 million when you need a bay or two for equipment?” Pepe said. “This is something that could be done at a fraction of the cost.”
In October 2016, H2M sent an updated letter to Stadelman that said “We are recommending demolition of the existing roof and wall assemblies.”
Councilman Steve Flotteron, who supported the new facility, said the ambulance company has been asking for a new facility for years and the need has only grown greater.
“They need to do certain improvements and we get blamed by the taxpayers,” he said in a phone interview. “All of these things are no choice. The population grew and people using the ambulances more than doubled. This protects lives.”
Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter said in a statement that the town has an obligation to keep the ambulance company’s facilities updated.
“New York State law requires that lifesaving medications be stored in a secure, temperature-controlled environment. This new facility, which meets New York State guidelines, will include more bays where emergency response vehicles, fully equipped with lifesaving medications, will be ready for dispatch in a moment’s notice, thereby increasing critical response time,” she said.