HANCOCK COUNTY — Vernon Township officials are expanding emergency response services to quicken response times and to keep up with future growth in the area.
U.S. census data from 2010 lists McCordsville’s population at about 4,800 residents, but town officials estimate the area has gained more than 2,000 residents in recent years.
Jim Nolte, Vernon Township trustee, said the area will continue growing in coming years and needs to prepare to accommodate the needs of a larger community.
With that growth, the number of emergency runs also has increased. In 2013, the Vernon Township Fire Department responded to 284 emergency calls; last year, that number increased to 318, and Tom Alexander, chief of the department, said he expects that number could reach 400 this year.
Members of the township board recently purchased an ambulance to help keep up with emergency response in the area. Currently, the township uses Seals, a private-contractor, which provides one ambulance to cover the township, which includes both McCordsville and Fortville.
Members of the board said they don’t plan to renew the contract with Seals, which expires at the end of 2018. Nolte said he intends to purchase an additional ambulance by that time, so the township’s emergency services won’t be reduced if it chooses to end its contract with Seals.
Vernon Township board member Marybeth Sears said the board is also in the process of identifying locations to build a small, two-bay station that could store the new ambulance.
Currently, the township’s ambulance is housed in the Fortville town hall, Nolte said. Eventually, Nolte said he wants to build a separate space to store the ambulance.
The township purchased its new ambulance used for about $20,000, Nolte said. He added he expects to spend another $10,000 purchase gurneys and other safety equipment and hopes to have the ambulance ready to go in six months.
In the meantime, the township is identifying possible sites to house the ambulance, he said.
Members of the McCordsville Town Council are coordinating with the township to make the best use of the new ambulance.
Larry Longman, president of the McCordsville Town Council, said the council has discussed building an ambulance bay onto the town’s municipal building off County Road 800N.
That would give the township a place to store the ambulance, and it would also provide McCordsville with an ambulance that can be dispatched to sites north of the railroad tracks that bisect the town into northern and southern halves.
Currently, the town dispatches ambulances from a fire station south of the tracks. When trains travel through the area, blocking access, the town has to rely on ambulances from the nearby Fishers Fire Department, Longman said.
While the current arrangement works, it’s less than ideal, Longman said.
Even a couple of minutes can make a big difference during emergencies like heart attacks and stroke, he said. Having another ambulance at the ready could make the difference in those situations, he said.