Kent County eyes new paramedic substation

Paramedic specialist Dirk Yoder is stationed at the Frederica Volunteer Fire Company. Part of the inspiration behind the Kent County proposed purchase of a $700,000 paramedic substation in west Dover comes from a successful pilot program just moved to permanent status in Frederica. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Kent County Levy Court commissioners agreed Tuesday to allow the county to continue pursing the purchase of what may become a new paramedic substation in the western part of Dover.

“We’ve entered into an agreement of sale to purchase the property on Route 8,” said Kent County Administrator Michael Petit de Mange. “We’re still in the due diligence process right now, so the sale hasn’t been completed. We’re still investigating and examining the process before finalizing the sale.”

Mr. Petit de Mange noted that the county’s offer of $180,000 was accepted for the property on 2490 Forrest Ave. in Dover. A structural engineer and architect have already examined the property and existing building. The county is estimating that the entire project will cost around $700,000.

“That estimated budget includes the purchase of the property and the full renovation of the site to bring it up to the standards of a paramedic substation,” said Mr. Petit de Mange. “We believe it’s likely to come in less than that though.”

The county administration and public safety department both believe strongly that a substation at that location will allow paramedics to more quickly respond to the western portion of the county.

“If we proceed with the purchase, our intention is to completely renovate the building and property and house a two-person, 24-hour paramedic unit there,” said Mr. Petit de Mange. “Right now, units that serve the areas west of Dover currently run primarily out of our headquarters which is on the eastern side of Dover — near the DelDOT headquarters. During peak call times, getting across Dover to Hartly, Pearsons Corner or Marydel can take some time. Positioning a unit west of Dover would get us closer to those areas. It’s a strategic location that could be a great enhancement to response times in those areas.”

Kent County Director of Public Safety Colin Faulkner notes that Dover has gotten more congested in recent years, lowering response times to the west of town.

“A new substation could make a huge difference,” he said. “We run into railroad track issues sometimes and Dover is busier now than it’s ever been and there is a building boom going on — this would be a good way to stay ahead of the eight ball on concerns that may delay response times.”

The county is also challenged by state code, which sets a goal at reducing average response times statewide to under eight minutes in 90 percent of incidents, explained Mr. Faulkner.

Kent County plans to turn this property on 2490 Forrest Ave. in Dover into a new paramedic substation. The substation could be operational within eight to 10 months of closing the purchase. (Delaware State News/Ian Gronau)

“Right now, the average for the entire county is basically less than 10 minutes, but that is being brought up by our average response times in Hartly, which is 19 minutes and eight seconds, and Marydel, which is 20 minutes and 58 seconds. A strategically placed unit closer to those communities would help out a lot.”

If the sale is finalized, Mr. Petit de Mange anticipates the county having the substation operational within eight to 10 months of closing the purchase.

Frederica precedent

Part of the inspiration behind the proposed purchase comes from a successful pilot program just moved to permanent status in Frederica. Back in late 2016, the area around Frederica was identified as a part of the county that suffered from slower paramedic response times. As a result, the county was able to negotiate leasing office space at the Frederica Volunteer Fire Department to station a single-medic unit there.

“The space includes an office, place to billet, a restroom facility and a place for the truck, so it’s really been a perfect location,” said Mr. Faulkner.

Expecting in advance to extend their reach by spreading manpower out across the county, administrators were surprised by just how much headway was made in two years.

“It clearly showed a significant public benefit in terms of reducing response time and the total call volume,” said Mr. Petit de Mange. “They knew setting up there would make significant inroads in response times, but the results really exceeded our expectations.”

In a presentation to Levy Court commissioners earlier in August, Mr. Faulkner provided pilot program data that showed a significant decrease in response time to the Frederica area over the course of the operational change. It also showed a drop in the number of times Dover and Harrington “units” needed to respond to the program area.

After being briefed on the program success by Mr. Faulkner, commissioners agreed to adopt the operational change on a permanent basis. The county’s public safety department is hoping for similar results if the county’s purchase of the west Dover building is finalized.

“It would absolutely reduce response times to both the western part of the county and west Dover,” said Mr. Faulkner. “On many calls, every second matters — so with something like this it’s not a question of ‘if’ it’ll save live, there’s no doubt that it will.”

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