The mudslide that forced local emergency responders Cambria ambulance station on Main Street is becoming a long-term challenge for the health care district.
That’s on top of more than $16,000 that Administrator Bob Sayers said the district has already paid to relocate the ambulance crew, order various reports and to cover other costs related to the hillside failure.
The money approved by the board Wednesday covers such items as a preliminary structural analysis; two alternative designs for a retaining wall; a survey to determine the precise boundaries of the district’s property; and a design to ensure proper drainage at the site.
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It does not include any construction, which would require additional funding.
We’ve got hillside drainage issues, we’ve got structural issues that could inhibit our ability to respond in a timely manner.
Bob Putney, CCHD board president
Sayers said the contractor quoted the $20,000 figure “to be safe” and might be able to complete the work for $10,000 or $15,000. Sayers said he expects some of the cost to be covered by insurance and public grants from sources such as San Luis Obispo County and Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The 4-0 vote by trustees (Barbara Bronson Gray was absent) left little doubt that the board felt the need was pressing.
“We’ve got hillside drainage issues, we’ve got structural issues that could inhibit our ability to respond in a timely manner,” board President Bob Putney said.
The 60-year-old complex at 2535 Main St., which includes the ambulance station as well as offices rented by Community Health Centers, has been the focus of debate for some time. Options include remodeling the facility; selling it and moving to a new building, which could then be remodeled; or selling it and building from scratch at a new location.
Regardless, trustees said, the repairs need to be done.
“If we don’t do this and it stays the way it is, I wouldn’t buy that piece of property,” Trustee Shirley Bianchi said.
A debris wall behind the ambulance station failed when mud poured down the hillside during heavy rains Jan. 8 and 9, temporarily trapping an ambulance between the hill and the building.
Crews have since been moved to a residential site on Park Hill, and civil engineers have recommended against their return to the station until the hill is stabilized. Jason Melendy, the district’s interim operations director, said at Wednesday’s meeting that the new location had added slightly to response times in January, but said the 5.7-minute average is “still a good response time.”
The district won’t be able to house ambulance crews at the Park Hill site indefinitely. Sayers said the district has permission to use the location through March 10 and is trying to get an extension through March 31 but will be looking for a new location to use after that.
Progress being made
Although Sayers told the board that staff has “made good progress completing all the immediate repairs,” he added that “we’re talking months, not weeks” to get the situation resolved.
The district has already cut down trees on the hill behind the property that could pose a threat. Sayers said he has been working with the San Luis Obispo County Fire Safe Council to cover the cost of the tree removal.
The district has also purchased and installed four concrete K-rails between the hillside and the CHC office as a temporary measure to protect against further slides. The barriers, the same kind used during freeway construction projects, are up to 48 inches high and 20 feet long.
“We went with the concrete as opposed to the plastic ones that you fill up with water because, if you get slope failure, the plastic will just slide along the asphalt,” Trustee Jerry Wood explained.
If we don’t do this and it stays the way it is, I wouldn’t buy that piece of property.
Shirley Bianchi, CCHD trustee
In other business:
▪ Sayers reported that the district was reimbursed for seven of 13 ambulance calls to Monterey County in 2016. He said that county has refused to pay for calls received directly in San Luis Obispo County rather than going through Monterey County’s dispatch service, American Medical Response.
Sayers said he had set up a meeting with Monterey County officials to discuss the matter March 7.
▪ Trustees, without taking a vote, opted by consensus to continue the Finance Committee as an ad-hoc committee. There had been some discussion of making it a standing committee, but district counsel Ray Biering recommended against doing so.
As an alternative, Putney suggested increasing transparency by holding a public workshop as part of the district’s budget process.
▪ Trustees voted 4-0 to build a private office for Melendy at the district’s rented Tamson Street offices at a cost of $2,100 to $2,400. Sayers said the landlord had approved the modifications, and the district would not be responsible for removing the office structure should it vacate the building.