MEXICO – With a few hundred layoffs at area paper and lumber mills this winter, Med-Care ambulance service directors are scaling back plans for a new building and hoping for some federal money, President Steve Brown said Tuesday.

If directors can decide on a project that’s shovel-ready, it may qualify for funding from President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus cash.

“We’re just keeping an eye open for all different opportunities,” Brown, of Carthage, said.

The organization, which serves 11 towns, dropped plans for a $1.7 million ambulance facility last summer because it did not have widespread support from taxpayers.

“We’ve got ideas on the steel building to bring the costs of it down. We’ve gone back and looked at our original building plan and scaled that back, you know. We took a bay off of it and some parts of the living quarters.

“It didn’t impact it too much, but we knocked $160,000 off that, you know, but now we’re thinking of and we’re looking for other potential land we could get cheaper or something,” Brown said.

A suggestion to build in Rumford’s industrial park didn’t pan out. That site is next to the gas plant, which is potentially too hazardous for a public safety building, he said.

Additionally, having ambulances rushing through Rumford’s Smith Crossing neighborhood to get to calls raised more safety concerns.

Med-Care wanted to buy land from Archie’s Inc. and build a public safety facility beside Mexico’s Region 9 School of Applied Technology. Additions could later be built to accommodate police and fire departments should Mexico and Rumford regionalize services.

“Whatever we would do (now), we’ll try to keep the impact down for the towns. … We just can’t fold up. We’ve got to keep this service going and, even if some of these mills close up for good or whatever, you are still going to need some kind of an ambulance service. Populations might drop or whatever, but we’ve got an aging population, so we’ve got a lot of things to keep in mind here,” Brown said.

Brown said Med-Care has outgrown its building and isn’t providing safe and adequate quarters for male and female employees who provide 24-hour coverage, seven days a week.

Last October, mold and several building code violations forced Med-Care to rent two mobile homes to house employees while problems were resolved. Other code violations are too costly to fix.

“Some of this stuff would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, you know, probably to do it, but the thing is, now no one in the world knows what’s going to happen here.

“The economy is all jumbled up, but we’ve got to keep providing ambulance service. We’ve still got the calls and everything. Even if the mill closes down, people will still be calling the ambulance,” Brown said.

The board will continue discussions at its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11, in the Peru town office.

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