Deerfield Valley Rescue Business Administrator Heidi Taylor says that the move was spurred by Southwestern Vermont Medical Center’s plan to expand. Deerfield Valley Rescue’s current building was built in 1976 on land owned by the health center. “The Deerfield Valley Health Center trustees, who ran the health center at the time, generously gave us a long-term lease for the property here,” says Taylor.
“In April, the health center came to us and said they were thinking about tearing down the health center and our building and building a whole new facility,” says Taylor. “And they offered for us to be part of that.”
However, Taylor says, the space offered in the would-be new facility was to be 2,000 square feet, which is less square footage than the organization currently occupies. At its present 2,700-square-foot location, the organization has a garage with two bays for ambulances and equipment storage, though Taylor says equipment storage space is often limited. Between the two bays is a staircase that leads upstairs to the work area, which comprises a small office for Taylor and a shared meeting, work, and rest space for responders.
Taylor says that although they’ve made it work, more space is a necessity. Due to distance or weather, some responders stay in the facility overnight, all sharing a couple of pullout couches in a cramped space. Plus, she says, long-term, the organization may need official sleeping quarters if it moves from a volunteer staff to a paid overnight staff, which is a possibility with declining volunteer numbers in the area.
“So we started looking at other options,” says Taylor. Taylor says that while looking for new locations, the organization was under the impression that SVMC would be purchasing Deerfield Valley Rescue’s current building from them. “We thought we were negotiating with SVMC that they would buy the building and tear it down. And we were going to use that money for a down payment. Then they came to us and said no, we’re thinking of just staying on our footprint over there and we won’t have to move you at all.”
Taylor says that by then, the organization was already in a forward motion. “We’re thinking we can get new facilities, and it really is the best thing to continue to move forward,” says Taylor. “The problem is that now we have to come up with a total down payment ourselves, whereas we thought we were going to have money from the hospital.”
Taylor says that with money already earmarked for a new ambulance for this year, which typically costs $140,000 to $180,000, the need for a down payment put the organization in a bind. And although they could tread water for a bit, Taylor says they don’t want to miss out on the Sprague property, which will suit their needs long-term.
Thus they’re raising $200,000 to use as a down payment for the property. This week, Taylor spoke to the Dover and Wilmington selectboards to ask for help in the form of $30,000 from each town. “We’ve always had the funds for everything we’ve done,” says Taylor. “New ambulances, new equipment. Occasionally we’ll ask the Rotary or Lions Club for help purchasing a certain piece of equipment, but usually we’ve done it all on our own.”
Deerfield Valley Rescue serves Wilmington, East and West Dover, Searsburg, Somerset, Marlboro out to Auger Hole Road, Stratton along Route 100, Whitingham, and Halifax. Of the towns it serves, the organization only went to Wilmington and Dover for help with the new facility, which Taylor says is because they are the only two towns with 1% funds dedicated to economic development. Taylor asked for $30,000 from each town. Dover approved the request, and Wilmington voted to give the organization $50,000.
At the Dover Selectboard meeting, at which Taylor received vocal support and the board approved $30,000 in funds from the town’s 1% fund, former chair Randall Terk suggested that the organization go to each town it serves for an annual appropriation, with Terk noting that as chair he asked the organization to come to the town for funds but it hadn’t. Currently, Deerfield Valley Rescue receives funds from Whitingham and Halifax due to a pre-existing contract the towns had with Whitingham Ambulance, which Deerfield Valley Rescue took over four years ago. None of the other towns currently appropriate funds to the organization regularly. In an interview on Wednesday, Taylor says that the feedback from that meeting was positive, and that Deerfield Valley Rescue would likely try to establish agreements for annual contributions from each town in order to quickly pay back the loan they’ll take beyond the down payment for the new property.