By Jesse Wood
Watauga County is building a medic base across from Skateworld on U.S. 321 in Vilas to speed up emergency response times in Western Watauga.
While excavation and site preparation concluded prior to winter, the construction of the 2,600-square-foot medical base began in late winter. Under the direction of the prior Watauga County Board of Commissioners, the county purchased the 13-acre property in 2014 for $102,000.
Two years later, the current commissioners awarded lowest-bidder McGuire Construction the project at $558,097. Five other contractors bid on the project. At the advisement of County Manager Deron Geouque, the commissioners also set aside $150,000 for contingency.
The project is expected to be finished in February 2017, according to Watauga County Maintenance Director Robert Marsh.
Watauga Medics, a private EMS provider that contracts with the county, will occupy the facility. In planning for this expansion, commissioners agreed to fund a crew for an additional 12-hour shift at about $170,000.
The average EMS response time for the fire districts in Western Watauga such as Beaver Dam, Zionville, Cove Creek and Shawneehaw is the slowest in the county. Those consolidated districts represent 17 percent of the calls with an average response time of 18 minutes and 20 seconds, according to info provided to commissioners during the planning stage.
Individual responses to more isolated areas in the Western portion of the county can take up to 30 minutes or longer from the two stations in Boone.
The Vilas location was selected in coordination with Watauga Medics CEO Craig Sullivan as a site that would increase response times to the Western part of the county while also aptly serving Boone, which represents half of all EMS calls in the county.
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