Knox Ambulance Service eyes new base location

The "old Boy Scout hall" in Knox will be the new home for the Knox Ambulance Service. The organization plans on remodeling the building into more comfortable working conditions for paramedics and EMTs. A garage will be built to house the ambulances.

KNOX - The Knox Ambulance Service is moving. Or will be in the months to come as Knox Borough Council Nov. 1 agreed to sell the former Boy Scout meeting hall along Petrolia Street to the ambulance company for $1.

The two sides raised the possibility of the sale in September and the ambulance company asked for more time to research the move.

"The only possible problem we can see could be the old gas lines in front of the property," said Knox Ambulance Co. Director Josh Minick.

One of the old gas lines now shelters fiber-optic cable.

Minick said the move would provide nearly double the living space for the ambulance personnel on duty.

"We could have separate bedrooms, a nice bathroom and a better living area," said Minick. "We will need to build a garage, and the building needs a new roof, but we'll be a lot better off."

The ambulance station is currently located in an old gasoline station building along Main Street. The aging building is cramped and has limited space for the ambulance vehicles.

Minick said the crowded and limited area in the building has a negative morale effect on personnel and probably affects the company's ability to recruit new EMTs and other needed personnel.

Borough council member Bill Henry reiterated the sale is contingent on the agreement that if the ambulance service is bought out or folds, the ownership of the building reverts to Knox Borough.

"You understand, though, we don't want it to come back," said Henry, expressing his hope for the viability of the ambulance company.

Minick said there is no reason to believe the ambulance company won't be around for a long time.

"We've never discussed a merger with anyone," said Minick. "There were rumors we were going to merge with Shippenville but that came from talks that happened years ago.

"None of us can predict the future, but we intend to stay independent and stay in Knox."

Knox Ambulance Company's primary service area includes Knox Borough and the townships of Salem, Richland, Beaver and Ashland.

But the increasing problems facing small, rural ambulance services push the boundaries for those volunteer services.

Ambulance company officer Kate Bifano said the Knox Ambulance Company has been recently dispatched to the Marienville, Tionesta, Parker and Emlenton areas.

"It's a crisis," Minick said of the staffing and funding problems the ambulance services face. "Of course we go on those calls (out of the area) but it leaves our own community unattended."

Paying for it

"Every single year, we don't make enough money to cover the bills," Minick explained as he described low reimbursement rates from Medicare and insurance companies.

"Thank goodness for the generosity of the people of this community," said Minick. "They are generous in the their support."

But still, a new roof, a garage big enough and modern enough to contain growing ambulance sizes and the remodeling of the building will cost the ambulance company a significant amount of money.

"We've started discussions about the roof, the gas lines, the garage" said Minick. "We don't have any firm estimates yet. Getting the building was the first step."

Knox Borough Council President Jack Bish Jr. suggested the borough and member townships might be able to tap into some of their respective federal COVID relief funds to help the ambulance company with the project.

Bifano said the ambulance company plans to approach each of the townships about donations.

Henry offered to symbolically start the fundraising campaign by donating the dollar needed for the purchase of the building.

Bifano said she already made claim to that particular donation, but accepted Henry's dollar.

"We'll put this toward the new garage," said Bifano.

Anyone interested in making a donation to the Knox Ambulance's mission or building project can mail their donation to: Knox Area Ambulance Service, 342 North Main Street, Knox, Pa. 16232.

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