By DEBORAH GERTZ
HUSAR Herald-Whig Staff Writer
MOUNT STERLING, Ill. — The photos on the wall tell the story of fire and ambulance service in Brown County.
Pictures include horse-drawn equipment for the fire department established in 1886 and shots from the ambulance service, which has been provided by the county since 1974. They also highlight the latest chapter -- the nearly finished building on the west edge of Mount Sterling.
Talked about since the late 1990s, the building housing the fire and ambulance departments is on the verge of completion. Staff began using it in 2009.
"Hopefully (it) will be done by the end of this year," said Brian Gallaher, Brown County ambulance director and chief of the Brown County Fire Protection District and the Mount Sterling Fire Department.
A combination of grants, fundraisers and a loan provided money needed for the facility, and volunteers offered the labor. The building cost an estimated $750,000, or about half the anticipated cost for the facility back in 1999.
With both the ambulance service and the fire department needing a new facility, "it might have been easier to try to find funding for just ambulance or just fire," Gallaher said, "but by bringing it together and using just one building, we were able to keep the costs down considerably. We only have to build one set of restrooms, one kitchen, one training room, and everybody uses it."
The building houses the Mount Sterling Fire Department, the Brown County Fire Protection District and the Brown County Ambulance Service, "but we function like one big department," Gallaher said.
"It looks like a big building, and it is a big building, but there's no wasted space," he said. "It's full."
One bay houses the ambulances and equipment while a second, larger bay at the other end of the building houses all the fire equipment and a separate room for refilling air bottles.
"We have everything in one location now. Previous to moving out here, we didn't have room," Gallaher said. "We had stuff scattered at different locations -- part at the airport, part at the county highway, part at the city -- and depending what the call was and what the need was for that call, you had to stop and think, send somebody to the appropriate place.
"Now everything's together, and everything has a door so you don't have to move equipment to get to a piece of equipment."
In between the bays are offices, a training room with large kitchen, a lounge with a kitchenette, men's and women's shower and locker rooms, sleeping rooms for ambulance personnel, a laundry room, fitness room, storage space and a radio room.
Enough of the interior work was done by October 2009 to move in, but several spaces still remain unfinished.
"Since we've been out here, there's not been a lot of work done, just a little here and there. As we'd get money, we'd add some drywall, do some painting," Gallaher said, but the top priority was repaying a $100,000 loan.
"All the money we raised went to pay off what we had to borrow to get the interior portion to where it's at. It will be paid off this year. Anything we raise after that we'll put into completion."
The radio room still needs a wraparound counter and equipment. When finished, it will serve as a backup 911 center for the county, and the building itself is an emergency shelter complete with a diesel generator large enough to power furnaces and air-conditioning units.
The lounge still needs its kitchenette. The temporary workroom, once planned for fitness equipment now moved upstairs, might become a kitchen pantry or an office. Rooms need ceiling tiles and flooring.
The men's shower and locker room, along with the kitchen off the training room, need the most work.
With the kitchen, "we've got everything. It's a matter of getting it all installed," Gallaher said. "The sink was donated by a local businessman. The stove was given to us by the school district when they renovated and put in a new one. If it wasn't for things like that, we wouldn't be as far along."
But Gallaher recognizes that the building, even unfinished, still marks a big improvement.
"It's 100 times better than what we had before," he said.