The ambulances are already in the garage and the finishing touches are being applied inside the headquarters of Ashe County’s newest ambulance service provider.
Ashe Medics will replace Blue Ridge Medical Transport, which has been the county’s ambulance service provider since 1994, starting July 1, but owner and operator Craig Sullivan expects everything to be ready and in place by June 1.
“I’m ahead of schedule,” Sullivan said. “It’s going great. I should have everything in place by the first of June.”
Sullivan also owns and operates Watauga Medics, which is the ambulance service provider for Watauga County. However, he’s been spending most of his time at the new Ashe Medics facility in West Jefferson, which is located in the old Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation building off Mount Jefferson Road, near the intersection of U.S. 221.
Sullivan purchased the property in early March.
The decision to switch ambulance service providers proved to be rather divisive and contentious at the Board of Commissioners Nov. 4, 2013 meeting.
At the meeting, Commissioners Judy Porter Poe, Gerald Price and Gary Roark voted in favor of awarding a $5.7 million, six-year contract to Ashe Medics, while Chairman Larry Rhodes and Commissioner William Sands voted against.
Sullivan said he was a little surprised at the way in which the issue was received by some in the community, but conceded that it’s a large contract.
Sullivan said radios will be installed in the ambulances sometime this week. Once the radios are installed, the ambulances will be eligible to receive North Carolina Vehicle Safety and Emissions Inspections.
The next step in the process will be for the organization to become Medicare certified. “That should be any day now,” Sullivan said. “We made contact with them (Medicare), finally.”
The facility is scheduled to be inspected by the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) on May 22, according to Sullivan.
Once the vehicles and facility pass the inspections and receive certification, Ashe Medics will be ready to begin serving the residents of Ashe County.
“Other than all that, I’d be ready to operate,” Sullivan said.
The facility will house a minimum of six ambulances, 18 paramedics and general office staff.
“I have hired 17 people full-time, about four part-time,” Sullivan said. “I have one more to go (hire) to fill up the full-time paramedic slots. I have about four more part-time to hire as well.”
Sullivan said most of the office staff is in place.
“Office staff is pretty much hired,” Sullivan said. “Basically, we need (to hire) one more person.”
Sullivan is quite pleased with the building’s interior.
“It’s huge, it worked out great for us,” Sullivan said.
The facility’s downstairs is reserved for crew offices and includes several crew bedrooms, a kitchen, showers and restrooms.
The upstairs portion of the facility will be reserved for administrative offices, conference and training rooms for staff and paramedics.
There’s a half-kitchen and a full kitchen at opposite ends of the top floor as well.
The drive-thru window that fronts Mount Jefferson Road will remain, Sullivan said. That front portion of the building will be reserved for secretarial staff. The window was previously used for Blue Ridge Electric customers to make payments. Sullivan said it will serve the same purpose for Ashe Medics.
“I’m finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel, which has been huge,” Sullivan said. “It’s been a little overwhelming, but it’s coming together pretty good.”
Alan Bulluck can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @albulluck.