LAKE GEORGE - Municipal officials are seeking to establish a health center in Lake George, and they're proposing to situate it beside a new emergency squad headquarters they'd like to have built.
Monday, after hearing Lake George Emergency Squad Bruce Kilburn detail the agency's severe space limitations at its Gage Road premises, the Lake George Town Board voiced strong support for a new squad building.
Discussing the pressing need for a new headquarters, Supervisor Frank McCoy and Town Board member Fran Heinrich said ideally, the squad building should be located beside a local health center - which the town now doesn't have.
McCoy and Heinrich said they'd met recently with Hudson Headwaters Health Network officials to see if it was feasible for their firm to develop a new health center in Lake George.
Hudson Headwaters operates health centers in 11 communities, including nearby Warrensburg.
McCoy said that he and Heinrich met with HHHN's development officer, Edward "Trip" Shannon and HHHN founder Dr. John Rugge, and the two men had offered positive comments about siting a health center in Lake George.
Heinrich said that HHHN has 4,143 existing clients from Lake George, who account for 10,582 patient-visits annually. McCoy said that these figures supported building a center in Lake George to accommodate the residents as well as the the 50,000 or more tourists and thousands of part-year residents that populate Lake George, primarily in the summer.
"With $1 billion that Obama has earmarked for rural health care, our chances are good, considering we'd score very high on their grant criteria," McCoy said.
McCoy added that with land costs so high in Lake George, it would make sense for the town and village to trim expenses by purchasing a spacious plot for both a health center and the emergency squad to share.
McCoy said the board knew of an appropriate site, but they weren't going to disclose it, because doing so would likely boost the landowner's asking price.
"We're not going to tip our hand where we're looking at, because then the price would go sky-high," he said.
Hudson Headwaters spokesman Howard Nelson confirmed that Rugge and Shannon had discussed feasibility of a health center with town officials.
"We're always interested in a community if a community is interested in us," he said.
At Monday's board meeting, Kilburn said the new squad building was needed badly because the existing one was severely cramped and put constraints on the services the squad provides.
The cramped quarters, he said, could also theoretically expose the squad to a sexual harassment lawsuit, as there were now no separate overnight quarters or lockers for men and women.
"This is a big concern for me as squad president," he said, noting that paid employees now staff the squad for certain shifts, and women have increasingly been landing jobs in emergency care work, both as volunteers and paid staff.
Also, the squad's space needs include additional vehicle bays, maintenance facilities, training rooms, decontamination and laundry facilities, and storage areas, Kilburn said. Facility needs have increased, he said, with the use of more equipment and the increasing number of calls and broadening of services expected.
"We have very tight quarters," Kilburn said, citing ever-increasing governmental standards for squad facilities.