Residents question ambulance service plans to move to their neighborhood

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
The Oregon County Ambulance District plans to eventually move its operations to this property in back of the old Thayer Elementary School, and a nearby property formerly used by Chapel Hill florist. At a March 17 public hearing, neighborhood residents were assured the ambulance service would not disturb them with the use of sirens or put a helicopter pad on the property.

On Wednesday, March 19, the City of Thayer held a public hearing for a zoning change request by Par Four Transportation. The company, which wants to sell two parcels of land, is seeking the zoning change from school-residential to commerical.

Property owner comments

As the hearing began, Mayor Merle Williams invited representatives from Par Four Transportation to explain their request. The property in question is made up of two tracts of land that form an "L" shape. One of the tracts is part of the old elementary school playground, known locally as the "lower field," and the other is where Chapel Hill Florist used to be. Former City Attorney Bill Perkins, who represents Par Four Industries, said, once rezoned, the company intends to sell the property to the Oregon County Ambulance District.

Ambulance Director

questioned

Kenneth McKenzie, Director of the Oregon County Ambulance District, then explained how the location would be a great place for his organization to expand. "The location up behind the elementary school is a good central location. It provides easy access to the 142 bypass, and 142 East or West. It will provide good access back out to Highway 63 -- a good central location in the city," McKenzie said. "We can access Highway 19 from there fairly easily. Its a lot more user-friendly location from where we are at now."

"It is also one of the highest points in the city of Thayer which will make radio transmissions easier and a lot more clear for us," McKenzie continued. "And there is enough property there to where we could expand our operations to possibly include a dispatch center and an education center [some day], which would better suit our students for the classes that we are currently doing, and allow us to provide a better accessibility to the community."

A number of residents who live near the property in question, brought up the question of sirens blasting their neighborhood in the middle of the night. "I'm not going to say we aren't going to run some sirens. It depends on call-to-call and the seriousness of the call, but as a general rule, we don't need lights and sirens unless traffic is in front of us and we need traffic to yield," McKenzie explained. "We generally do not do it in the city limits of Thayer, simply because if the call location is within the city limits, everything is within a few minutes of where we are at anyway so we're not going to have any significant saving of time by running the lights and sirens. I can tell you that at two and three o' clock in the morning, traffic is not an issue, so residents don't have to worry about being woken up at that time of the night by sirens blaring, and all of us that work here are professionals and we don't get a thrill out of hearing the siren anyway. We want to be good neighbors and we want to provide a good service to the community."

Another concern about the requested zoning change was whether the ambulance service is planning on adding a helipad ion the property. McKenzie promised that there would be no helipad due to the fact there are other locations in the city that are easily accessible. McKenzie also informed the council that the Ambulance District would like to re-open a city street on the Walnut Street side of the property that adjoins with South Seventh Street. Doing that would help to cut down on potential congestion when the Food Pantry, which is located next to the property, is open or when there is a funeral precession on Chestnut Street. McKenzie added that, while they are interested in purchasing the property, they have no plans to build for at least a few years.

After the thirty minute meeting, councilman Mike Harber made a motion to move forward with the plan by drafting an ordinance for the rezoning of the property requested by Par Four Transportation. The motion carried unanimously. The council will take a vote on the zoning change requent at a future meeting.

Fin to Fur zoning request

One other matter was on the agenda. The council discussed approving the request to sub-divide the recently rezoned Fin to Fur Plaza, which is located on Nettleton Avenue. Terry Tillman made a motion to move forward with the request. It was seconded by Mike Harber and carried unanimously.

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