EMS finds temporary home

Andrew McGuire

La PORTE – The La Porte County EMS has a place to set up shop while its La Porte headquarters is moved to a new site later this year.

During its meeting Wednesday, the La Porte County Board of Commissioners approved an agreement with La Porte Hospital for the county EMS to temporarily use the former House of Fara building, located behind Kabelin Ace Hardware on the west side, this fall.

The service will operate out of the old manufacturing site while contractors move its current building on State Street one block to the east.

Officials have worked with the hospital and members of the Fara family to secure the lease, which will cost the county just $1, according to county attorney Shaw Friedman. The county will have to spend just under $13,000, however, to prepare the temporary site for use, EMS Administrator Andrew McGuire said.

The former House of Fara building has several features that make it ideal for the EMS staff to use on a short-term basis, McGuire told the commissioners. The front office space can be easily converted into living quarters, while the spacious back warehouse should have plenty of room for the ambulance fleet.

EMS employees will perform much of the necessary construction work to reduce costs of the conversion, McGuire said.

Crews plan to move into the building this fall when the move of the State Street headquarters is expected to begin. The relocation is to make room for the new La Porte Hospital building, currently under construction.

The hospital purchased the land the current La Porte EMS base sits on for $1.1 million last year and gave the county until Dec. 1 of this year to vacate the property. 

La Porte County officials initially considered demolishing the headquarters and rebuilding elsewhere, which would have cost an estimated $1.4 million. However, the county decided on a cheaper alternative, opting to pay a contractor to move the existing building.

According to McGuire, the work will last six to eight weeks, 10 at most. Work on the foundation at the new site is expected to begin in September, with the actual move scheduled to start several weeks later.

While voting in favor of Wednesday's agreement, Commissioner Richard Mrozinski worried that the temporary base's location on the west side of La Porte will hurt response times to Rolling Prairie and other portions of eastern La Porte County.

McGuire said he shared that concern, but believes it will only add 30 seconds to a minute to current response times. He said he would monitor the situation and station an ambulance on the east end of the city if necessary.

"I'm hoping we can just work with it the best we can for the few weeks we're going to be there," McGuire said.

Before voting to approve the agreement, Commissioner Sheila Matias asked if McGuire could help the county get in contact with the Fara family. She would like to thank them for agreeing to allow use of their old property, she said.

"That's really great that they stepped up and helped us at this time," she said.

Also on Wednesday, the commissioners:

• Voted in favor of a contract with Marquiss Electric, not to exceed $200,000, to perform repairs to Michigan City's Franklin Street Bridge. The company will fix the damage caused to the mechanical lift bridge earlier this month after an Ohio man's SUV became lodged at the base of the bridge as it was going up.

• Voted to rezone a parcel off State Road 104 in Pleasant Township (Stillwell), which will pave the way for construction of a new Dollar General store in the future.

• Voted to allow La Porte County Planner Mitch Bishop to approach the County Council to ask for $19,375, which will provide a 10 percent match for a grant to replace 5,000 traffic signs.

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