Faced with a choice between applying for a grant to fix storm-related damage to the Main Street ambulance station or seeking a grant for potential relocation to the Cambria Fire Station, health district trustees chose the latter course.
On a 3-2 vote during their monthly meeting Wednesday, April 19, Cambria Community Healthcare District trustees directed Administrator Bob Sayers to focus on the latter option, referred to as Project B.
Board President Bob Putney, Vice President Mary Anne Meyer and trustee Jerry Wood voted “yes,” with trustees Shirley Bianchi and Barbara Bronson Gray opposed.
The vote followed a lengthy discussion, during which the majority argued that the storm-related grant (referred to as Project A) would merely restore the 60-year-old facility to the condition it had been in prior to a series of winter storms that caused extensive damage to the property. It would not, however, fix other problems such as asbestos, plumbing issues and problems with the facility’s location.
Bronson Gray and Bianchi, meanwhile, argued that the district has no concrete plans or cost estimates regarding a potential move to the fire station, which would likely involve the use of modular buildings in the short term, followed by more permanent structures.
“If we don’t have the information that Bob (Sayers) needs, the chance of getting the grant is nil,” Bianchi said.
She asked Sayers whether it would be possible to pursue both options simultaneously. But he responded that the state Office of Emergency Services and Federal Emergency Management Agency, which are overseeing the grants, want agencies to commit to a single project.
Wood said there’s much more wrong with the current facility than damage done by the storms.
“If we went with Project A, that would effectively put us back where we started before the storm damage, which in my opinion is a completely inadequate facility,” he said. “The building does not comply with proper housing for the ambulance crews now.”
Meyer added that the repair option is “just putting a Band-Aid on this.”
Bianchi said other grant opportunities would present themselves in the future, if the district chose to pursue relocation after it had more facts and cost estimates in hand. She pointed specifically to grant possibilities that could be created by the district’s participation in the Local Hazard Mitigation Plan, which the board approved in March.
“Plan B can be done at any time we determine that Plan A is not going to work,” she said. “I guess I’m an old-fashioned conservative. I believe you take care of what you have.”
Sayers has said at previous meetings that the district’s insurance will cover some of the costs involved in repairing storm-related damage, but not all of them.
Bronson Gray also worried that, without state funds for storm repairs, the district might have to abandon the Main Street property and would “get nothing for it” in a sale.
Putney, however, argued, “We have a window of opportunity now that would fund co-location” with the fire station. “I hate to walk away and hope for grants.”
The motion that passed directed Sayers to advocate for Project B at a kickoff meeting with FEMA officials.
Also at Wednesday’s meeting, Sayers returned reported that the district had received bids for electrical, plumbing and roofing repairs to the Main Street facility, as well as pest control, that totaled between $180,000 and $195,000.
The bulk of that, $125,000, dealt with plumbing, but Bronson Gray said that price was likely far too high, because it involved replacing all the plumbing in both buildings on the property. The scope of the actual work, she said, would likely be far smaller.
The board also voted to take a hard line with American Medical Response, the contractor used by Monterey County, which has relied on CCHD ambulances to cover some of the southern reaches of that jurisdiction.
AMR has proposed a contract that requires responders from San Luis Obispo County to contact the company before answering Monterey County calls. But board members said such a delay would do a disservice to patients.
They voted to strike that language from the proposal so CCHD ambulances could respond immediately, and that the district would be paid for those responses.
“We’re in a very good bargaining position,” Bronson Gray said. “They need us. They need us very badly.”
Trustees voted 5-0 to instruct Sayers to return to AMR with the simpler language and to issue a 60-day notice to terminate the agreement if the company refused.
Trustees also voted 5-0 to send a letter to AMR demanding payment for five responses to Monterey County that the district did not receive in 2016.