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The West Side Community Healthcare District is interested in purchasing a building at 1040 Merced St. in Newman to serve as crew quarters for the West Side Community Ambulance.

West Side Community Ambulance has dropped plans to base units separately in Gustine and Newman.

Instead, ambulance board President Dennis Brazil announced last week, West Side officials are negotiating for the purchase of a Newman location which would serve as the quarters for both on-duty crews.

Brazil said the West Side Community Healthcare District, which operates the taxpayer-supported ambulance service, is negotiating to buy a vacant building at 1040 Merced St. which previously housed a doctor’s office.

Brazil said the district had found a potential crew quarters in Gustine, but encountered concerns with that location.

“We looked everywhere else,” he said. “The Gustine inventory is very limited.”

Finding a location suitable for a single crew in Newman was also challenging, Brazil said, and the district eventually decided to look at the Merced Street building - which it had considered in the past but not moved on - as potential to house two crews.

West Side operates two full-time ambulances. Crews are currently based at the former West Side Community Hospital building on Highway 33, midway between Gustine and Newman - although one is “posting” into Newman 12 hours a day in order to meet response time standards.

The ambulance is using  quarters in the former hospital rent-free under the terms of an agreement with a physician who purchased the building. That arrangement expires at the end of the year, Brazil said, and West Side will have to begin paying monthly rent of $3,500 if its crews remain there.

The 1,600-square-foot former medical building in Newman would comfortably house both crews, Brazil said, and its location offers easy access to Highway 33.

“It puts us in a good location,” he commented. “We looked at a couple of locations on Main Street, but getting in and out of there, depending on the time of day, could be a problem.”

If the district acquires the building, he said, a number of improvements would be required, including a new driveway, modifications to an existing carport, installation of shade structures for the vehicles, and site lighting.

The district’s offices will remain in their current location on Tulare Street, Brazil added, as the building under negotiation is not large enough to comfortably accommodate both crew quarters and administrative headquarters.

Newman City Manager Michael Holland said the Merced Street location appears to be appropriately zoned for the potential use but said the city will have to learn more about exactly what is proposed.

Parking requirements, planned occupancy and building modifications are among the topics that would be reviewed, he noted.

“If they strike a deal, we will work with them to try to get them up and running as quickly as possible with minimal impacts on the adjacent residents,” Holland commented. “We are hopeful that we can do that at a staff level. We need to comply with code requirements.”

Logistically, Brazil said, basing both crews in Newman makes sense because the majority of calls are in Stanislaus County.

He said West Side will still be able to meet its contractual response time standards into Gustine from the Newman location.

Responding to a Gustine call from the proposed base as compared to the former hospital will increase the travel time for crews by about two minutes, Brazil estimated.

“We are still well within the response time standards for Merced County,” he emphasized. “I am very confident that the level of service (on Gustine calls) will be the same or better than

 it is right now.”

Stanislaus County providers are held to a shorter response time standard than their Merced County counterparts.

Brazil also noted that the district will be adding a third, 12-hour car by July 1 when it resumes coverage responsibility for the Santa Nella area. The plan is to have that car “float” between Gustine and Newman, he said, effectively increasing coverage for the district overall.