By DEBORAH GERTZ HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
PITTSFIELD, Ill. -- Snow always adds to the challenge of getting to work for Ronnie Goewey.
So do ice and rain.
Goewey, a paramedic with the Pike County Ambulance Service, battles the elements with every emergency call, dashing across the street from his quarters to where the county's ambulances are housed.
He's ready for a new location for the ambulance service, the sooner the better, hoping for someplace designed so "we don't have to go out in the rain and snow."
A Pike County Board committee wants to move forward with preparing blueprints for a new ambulance building.
"We thought it was time to stick our foot in the water," said Cleve Curry, the County Board member who is chairman of the Public Safety Committee.
The committee will seek bids for an architect to design blueprints and develop a cost estimate for the project.
"We'll get that part started, get a clear figure of the amount to put up a building and decide, at that point, further plans," Curry said.
The building, in the discussion stage for several years, was delayed most recently while the county tried to reach a first-ever contract agreement with ambulance workers.
Contract arbitration is set for May 14 to resolve a dispute over calculating the cost of raises.
"When we get a decision there, we can make a decision about what will happen after that," Curry said.
Initial estimates put the building cost at $1.5 million. The county can tap into $500,000 in the ambulance fund, but would need to borrow money or seek grants to cover the rest.
The county now uses space provided by Illini Community Hospital to house its ambulances and personnel.
County Board member Justin Noble asked whether Illini had asked the county to leave its current ambulance quarters. Told Illini has not, Noble voted against the committee's report and seeking the blueprint design.
A large open garage housed ambulances when Illini Community Hospital operated the service. Employees stayed, slept and showered in the hospital. When the county took over the service in September 2003, Illini offered continued use of the garage, but not other facilities, for $1 per year.
Makeshift quarters in the garage housed paramedics and emergency medical technicians until 2007, when the county rented a house also owned by Illini across the street for $500 per month for ambulance personnel. That arrangement remains in place.
By 2009, the committee was touring possible sites to house the ambulances and personnel under one roof.
The Pittsfield City Council in July 2011 approved selling the northeast quarter of the Brown Shoe site to the county for $42,000. As part of the deal, the city required the county to begin building at the site within two years and retained right of first refusal if the county decides to sell the property.
The new site "won't be too bad" for the ambulance service, said Goewey, a 13-year veteran with the service who hopes he and other paramedics are involved in designing the new building. "That will help to set it up for what works best for us."