Ambulance needs a new home

TREMONT — Southwest Harbor-Tremont Nursing Service, the nonprofit that provides ambulance service for both towns, is looking for a home for its second ambulance. The vehicle, known as R2, is currently housed at the Bass Harbor Fire Station.

“They moved in temporarily 18 years ago,” said Tremont Fire Chief Keith Higgins. “We’ve really been making a lot of accommodations for equipment and apparatus.”

Later this year, the Tremont Volunteer Fire Department is slated to bring a new truck into its fleet. At that time, the spot now occupied by the nursing service’s second ambulance will be needed.

“It’s a great organization and it’s really necessary for the town,” said Higgins. “I would really hate to see the ambulance [service] get rid of their second ambulance.”

Members of the Nursing Service’s board of directors have been looking around for another storage location since last fall. But there are pretty specific criteria for a suitable space, which makes the search a bit tougher. To store an ambulance, the structure needs to be heated, secure and readily accessible throughout the year.

At this time, there are three options being discussed by the nursing service board. One is using a storage bay at Hinckley Yachts’ boatyard on Shore Road in Southwest Harbor.

“The Hinckley place we looked at is not lit at night,” said Sonia Fielding, who is president of the organization’s board of directors. “We just need to be able to get to the second ambulance.”

While Hinckley Yachts is continuing to look for ways to accommodate them, the ambulance service is continuing to explore other options.

A second possibility would be to store the ambulance at the Southwest Harbor Fire Station. That would need to be a temporary option, according to Fielding, who has been involved with the service for 16 years.

“The idea of housing it here at the fire station is very appealing,” said Southwest Harbor Selectman Kristin Hutchins, who is also on the Nursing Service’s board of directors. “I think the ambulance does really important work in this town. We’re really lucky to have it.”

A third option for storing the service’s second ambulance is constructing a building for it at MDI and Ellsworth Housing Authorities’ Norwood Cove Apartments in Southwest Harbor.

“Anything that we would build there would cost us between $90 to $100,000.” said Fielding.

“One misconception is that we are a town entity, but we are not,” she said.

Last year the service responded to about 350 calls, according to Fielding, which is down from previous years by about 60 calls. When the dilemma of finding R2 a new home came up recently, members of the service’s board of directors had to decide if having a second ambulance was essential to the service the nonprofit provides.

Their primary ambulance, R1, is housed in a bay next to the Southwest Harbor Police Department on Village Green Way, is staffed 24/7 and responds to about 85 percent of the ambulance calls to the service.

“An automobile accident invariably involves a second ambulance,” said Fielding, explaining why the board decided in favor of keeping the second one. “Having that second ambulance has really been a lifesaver for us.”

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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