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Making room for progress

| June 4, 2007 12:00 AM

The end of an era collapses with the ambulance barn

By ERIKA KIRSCH Western News Editor

After calling the ambulance barn home for over 30 years, the Libby Volunteer Ambulance crew said goodbye to the building on Tuesday to make way for a new ambulance station.

"It was very sad to leave it," according to Penny Kyes, the secretary for the Libby Volunteer Ambulance. Kyes was also a volunteer for 11 years. "We had one junior volunteer here that said [the ambulance barn] was like her second home."

Built in 1931, the building was originally the Lincoln County road crew's shop, Kyes said.

"The county graciously let us use it in 1971 and it was deeded to us in 2006," she said.

The structure was torn down in order to build a new ambulance station and construction will tentatively begin this week, Kyes said. The new ambulance station will be a two-story building and 10,000 square feet, three times larger than the former building, she said.

New crew and sleeping quarters will be added to the new building, which were absent from the old building. It will also be handicap accessible.

"It's totally exciting. It's really a dream come true," Kyes said. "It's the beginning of a new era. We've been working toward this for a long time."

Construction of the building will cost approximately $1.1 million, half of which has already been raised, she said. The other half will be paid for through a First National Bank loan, "who made us an awesome deal," Kyes said. A timeline projects the building to be complete in approximately eight months.

No taxes will be collected from Lincoln County residents to pay for the construction of the new ambulance station. The Libby Volunteer Ambulance crew is made up entirely of volunteers and the money already raised for the building came from billing for the services rendered to patients, Kyes said.

Actual ambulances are paid for by the funds received from county mills. That money is used to purchase ambulances for Libby, Troy and Eureka, Kyes said. However, the Libby Volunteer Ambulance is required to pay out of their own funds for fuel, supplies, equipment, training, telephone, heat and other amenities and supplies necessary to keep the ambulance up and running.

Thus far, several community organizations and businesses have helped make the new building a possibility. D.C. Orr, who owns Orr Excavating, offered his services in the demolition of the building.

Several truck companies came out to help in the project, the city of Libby was willing to help in the efforts, as well, Kyes said. The landfill also waived the fees for dumping the building refuse from the demolition. The electric company waived fees for shutoff of the building as well, Kyes said.

"It's been quite a community project," Kyes said. "The community support has been really, really cool."

Demolition of the old ambulance barn couldn't have come at a better time. According to crews on-site during the demolition, the beams holding up the structure were rotten from water damage, Kyes said. The overhead door was "imminent to break and lock us in," she said.

It only took 3.5 seconds for the building to collapse.

"It went over really quickly, it was all the way to the ground," she said. "The insulation was all moldy."

Libby Volunteer Ambulance is currently housed at the Raquet Club on Highway 37 North. A volunteer base of 25, a fleet of six ambulances, one rescue rig and an ALS response unit will call the Racquet Club home until the completion of the new building, Kyes said. St. John's Lutheran Hospital is currently doing the laundry for the Libby Volunteer Ambulance, as there are no facilities at their current residence.

"St. John's does a lot for us," Kyes said.

If anyone is interested in volunteering for the Libby Volunteer Ambulance, the crew is always recruiting. Interested parties may take a class and join the crew. For more information, call 293-5582.