Although grading work has been underway for several weeks, Friday marked the official groundbreaking for what will be the first of four new Sullivan County Emergency Medical Service stations. Despite dark skies and a burst of rain during the event, city and county officials, along with EMS workers, agreed it was a great day.
Sullivan County EMS Chief Jim Perry was the first to reveal the station’s name will honor Godsey, who died while responding to flooding in Carter County in 1998. Godsey, working that night as a member of the Kingsport Life Saving Crew, was lost as he and others attempted to rescue people trapped in the flooding.
Sullivan County Commissioner Hunter Locke said the commission will officially vote on the name at its monthly meeting on June 18 (6 p.m., second floor of the historic Sullivan County Courthouse in Blountville).
The commission voted last year to issue $3.9 million in bond debt to pay for building three Sullivan County EMS stations and remodeling a fourth building. The cities of Bristol and Kingsport each donated land. Kingsport contributed the property for what will be Junior Godsey EMS Station #8 on Gibson Mill Road just off East Stone Drive.
The effort first moved forward when the city of Bristol, Tennessee, donated a parcel of land to the county to be used for a new EMS station to serve the Bluff City/Piney Flats area. The lot is less than one mile from the current station and barely inside the city.
“I believe this whole project, God had his hand on every bit of it,” Sullivan County Commissioner Mark Vance, a former longtime EMS employee, said at the groundbreaking ceremony. “Because everything we have done, it’s just been continuous blessings, blessings, blessings.”
Vance said the overall plan is an example of what can be accomplished with effort and cooperation.
“It shows the county has made a strong commitment, in cooperation with the cities of Bristol and Kingsport, to build this station, to recognize the hard work our (EMS) men and women are doing every day to serve our citizens,” Vance said.
“It’s a win-win,” Kingsport Mayor Pat Shull said.
Construction of the other new buildings will be completed in overlapping phases, Sullivan County Mayor Richard Venable said.
The station on Gibson Mill will include training facilities.
The goal of the overall plan is to reduce response times. It also will improve operational efficiency, and EMS Director Gary Mayes has said he believes it will be a valuable tool for employee recruitment and retention.
The plan will replace two stations, which sit on land leased by the county, with three new stations on land owned by the county. The reason it will take three stations to replace two is based on a strategy developed by mapping all 911 calls answered by the agency and comparing that information with which current stations answered them.
Sullivan County EMS runs approximately 29,000 emergency and convalescent calls per year. That’s the total for the agency’s current six stations: Hickory Tree; Bluff City/Piney Flats; Blountville; Indian Path; Wilcox Drive (near that road’s intersection with Industry Drive), and Colonial Heights. The Wilcox Drive location is Station 4 — and it runs approximately 11,000 of those 29,000 total calls answered by the agency each year.
Why? It covers a wide, densely populated area.
It’s also on leased land and the lease is about to expire. That’s the fact that got much of the ball rolling on the upgrade of EMS’ presence countywide. The station that serves Bluff City/Piney Flats also is on leased land.
The county purchased a warehouse on Wilcox Court with the original intent of moving Station 4 there. But ultimately the commission agreed to hire an architectural firm to look at the option to build three stations and remodel the warehouse as well. Maps created by the city of Kingsport’s staff, using 911 call data, gave EMS officials and county commissioners a clearer picture of where stations would best be located based on call volume.