HOCKING COUNTY — As the county discusses what it could do with Appalachian county-designated state funding, one need rises to the forefront: emergency medical services.
At a Hocking County Commissioners meeting on July 7, Hocking County Commissioner Gary Waugh reported that the county is seeking funding for a new EMS station in close proximity to Hocking Hills State Park, and other recreation areas.
“There’s just something that I want to keep an eye on, and we have talked, trying to figure out how to get funding — that we need an EMS station out at the caves,” Waugh said at that meeting. “I think it makes so much sense, I think the public should know, I really do. We’re looking for funding.”
Dickerson said the county would be pursuing the EMS station efforts “heavily,” especially in regard to the $500 million the state announced specifically for Ohio’s 32 federally designated Appalachian counties; the state has named the program “Ohio BUILDS — Small Communities, Big Impact — A Plan for Appalachia.”
Gov. Mike DeWine signed HB 377, which appropriates the $500 million from the state’s American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, on June 28, following a press tour by the administration, which included a stop by Lt. Gov. Jon Husted at the Logan Theater in April, The Logan Daily News reported.
Dickerson expressed optimism in July that the state would approve an EMS station as one use of the Appalachian dollars.
“The more public support we get for that station, the better off we’ll be,” Waugh said July 7. “Everybody thinks it’s a good idea; we’ll be able to sell it better, easier. Although, I can’t imagine anybody turning down a life-or-death situation.”
Stats and their stories
According to Columbus Monthly, the Hocking Hills Tourism Association estimates that over 5 million visitors tour the Hocking Hills and Ohio Department of Natural Resources recreation areas per year.
However, the “Hocking Hills” are apparently not limited to Hocking County, as the HHTA accepts members with lodging business located in Athens, Fairfield, Hocking, Perry, Pickaway, Ross and Vinton counties.
The Columbus Dispatch reported in May that “Over the past five years, there have been four accidental fatalities at Ohio’s state parks due to falls, three of them in the Hocking Hills area.” However, another death has since occurred, The Logan Daily News reported; another apparent accidental fall, where at Cantwell Cliffs a 35-year-old Canal Winchester man died.
In July Waugh stressed that it would be up to HCEMS to determine the best location for a station in proximity to the caves. Dickerson suggested the station be located in between the Hocking Hills Elementary and the parks. Waugh said July 7 that he’d be asking for statistics from Hocking County Emergency Medical Services.
According to its website, HCEMS currently employs 24 full-time paramedics, and 25 part-time paramedics, intermediates and emergency medical technicians. It has only three stations across the county:
- Station One: Located on State Route 664 in Logan, HCEMS Station One has the largest coverage area of all three stations, serving the city itself, Union Furnace, Rockbridge, Enterprise, Ewing, Gibsonville, Ilesboro and Hideaway Hills. It is the main station; it includes the chief’s office, training areas, houses extrication equipment and responds to all automotive accidents in the county. It is staffed with two 24/7 advanced life support crews.
- Station Two: Located in Laurelville, HCEMS Station Two’s coverage area includes the village itself and South Bloomingville (western Hocking County). It is staffed 27/7 with one ALS crew.
- Station Three: Located in Carbon Hill, HCEMS Station Three serves Carbon Hill, Haydenville, Longstreth and Murray City (eastern Hocking County). Like Station Two, it is staffed with only one 24/7 ALS crew. It is the most recent addition to HCEMS, opened in 2012.
On Aug. 4, HCEMS Chief Scott Brooker presented an assessment report for what an “Old Man’s Cave EMS Station,” prepared by BDT Architects & Designers, would look like.
According to the report (dated Aug. 1), there have been 42 year-to-date HCEMS calls to ODNR areas. The overwhelming majority of 2022 calls (26) from Old Man’s Cave; two for Rock House, five for Cedar Falls, four for Cantwell Cliffs and five for Conkles Hollow.
In 2021, HCEMS received a total of 72 HCEMS-to-ODNR calls, 56 of which from Old Man’s Cave. In 2020, HCEMS received only 57 total calls to ODNR areas, as it was a year with a park closure (due to the coronavirus pandemic). In 2019, HCEMS responded to a total 92 calls to ODNR areas.
Additionally, there are 130-150 Benton Township calls per year, the report states.
Areas considered in the report also included: Rose Lake, South Bloomingville, Goose Creek Road, Chapel Ridge Road, portions of Big Pine Road, portions of Keifel Road, Purcell Road, Thomas Road and the upcoming Hocking Hills State Park Lodge.
The report investigated an area of private property “adjacent to the Ohio Division of Natural Resources Hocking State Forest Office to determine the feasibility of the site to support an EMS facility.”
The report states that “A visual field inspection was made by BDT Architects on April 12, 2022.”
The “existing site” lies within a 67-acre “tract” of privately owned land that is “relatively flat.” The site is located near State Route 664 and is located within a Federal Emergency Management Agency-designated “Zone X” area, meaning it is an “moderate- to low-risk” flood area, according to the agency.
The new facility, per BDT’S feasibility study, would be operational 24/7, would include two truck bays and two rigs, two staff sleeping quarters; a mechanical room, kitchen, living space and restroom/shower facility. Sewage treatment would be on site, as well as parking. It would be a building of pole barn-like construction.
The project’s estimated cost, per BDT, would be a total of $457,634.74.
Other hopes for the $500 million
“Ohio BUILDS — Small Communities, Big Impact — A Plan for Appalachia” will launch in two phases, Lt. Gov. Husted explained in April. All Appalachian political subdivisions, such as the city of Logan and Hocking County, may submit applications in the program.
First comes a $50 million “planning phase,” individual Appalachian political subdivisions may apply for up to $100,000 in planning funding, or regional applicants that work together may apply for up to $3 million.
All planning applications must focus on one of three areas: infrastructure (including historic downtown revitalization), community health, or rebuilding local workforce, according to the state.
Next is the “implementation phase,” where the remaining $450 million will be distributed for the execution of Appalachian communities’ proposed projects.
According to the Appalachian Regional Commission, Hocking County is considered to be a “transitional county” in terms of economic status for fiscal year 2023. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2020, 14.7% of Hocking County’s 28,097 residents are persons in poverty.
County residents and officials met in early July to brainstorm application ideas for the program, The Logan Daily News previously reported.
Ideas for projects that came up during the July meeting were: workforce development, possibly adding a trade school; improving first responder services, not only adding a station near the caves but one in Murray City or elsewhere in the county, as well as a first responder training facility or purchasing equipment for existing fire departments; improving building infrastructure, such as demolishing dilapidated structures and increasing affordable single-family housing; and downtown revitalization for not only Logan but also county villages.
The Buckeye Hills Regional Council (of which Hocking County is a member) said in July that it anticipated guidelines for the Appalachian Community Grant Program would be available within 30 days.
The program is to be administered through the Governor’s Office of Appalachia, which is part of the Ohio Department of Development, The Logan Daily News previously reported.
Now in mid-August, entities have less than four months remaining to compile ideas, background information, ambitions and strategies for planning phase applications that are due Dec. 31 – and must do all this without any official state scoring guidelines.
Commissioner Sandra Ogle said Monday that the city and county are working together on their application, and that though the deadline is quickly approaching, she is not worried.
“What we’re doing with our time is getting our ducks in a row, getting prepared,” Ogle said. “We’re doing all of our homework and getting everything ready so that when they do post (guidelines), we’re ready to move forward with it.”
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