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Kandiyohi County officials are debating a proposal to allow Willmar Ambulance to use space in the county's rescue squad building. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

Officials talk of a possible new home for Willmar Ambulance

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WILLMAR -- Plans are moving ahead that would allow the Willmar Ambulance Service to move into Kandiyohi County's new rescue squad building on the east side of town.

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In a unanimous vote Tuesday, the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners agreed to continue working with Rice Memorial Hospital, which owns the ambulance service.

The first step is to develop a construction agreement to remodel existing space and the second step is to draw up a lease for the shared space, said County Administrator Larry Kleindl.

The arrangement would be another example of the county "working together with other governmental units," said County Board Chairman Richard Falk, who urged Kleindl to "git-r-done."

Under the preliminary plan, the hospital would pay to construct six apartments in the empty, upper-level mezzanine of the rescue squad building that will be used as sleeping quarters for ambulance personnel.

The apartments will take up about 1,500 square feet of space.

Two of the five ambulances in the hospital's fleet would be housed at the county rescue squad building, said Rice CEO Mike Schramm in an interview. The remaining three ambulances would be housed in an existing garage near the hospital.

The hospital had sought the "conceptual go-ahead from the commissioners," Schramm said.

A timeline and construction details for the project are still in progress, but Schramm said if agreements are finalized, construction could be completed by this summer.

Schramm said the space is needed because an older house in which the hospital has ownership that is used for ambulance personnel needs costly repairs and is being removed to make way for parking spots.

Ambulances have occasionally been parked outside because of inadequate indoor space, said Schramm.

When the county began plans to design the rescue squad building a couple years ago, the commissioners had invited the Willmar Ambulance Service to be a partner.

That proposal didn't progress then, and the county took on the project itself. The county moved into the building in October.

About 1½ months ago, however, Rice asked the county if there was space available.

Commissioner Harlan Madsen said it's unfortunate the ambulance service was not involved from the start so that additional space could have been constructed. But he said the ambulance service was not aware at that time that their housing situation would change.

Kleindl said the rescue squad building was built to accommodate expansion for the next 20 to 30 years. By reorganizing storage of equipment, Kleindl said the county can dedicate some of that "possible future growth" space to the ambulance service.

Remodeling that's done to accommodate the ambulance service's housing needs will be paid for by Rice, he said.

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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