BC Ambulance Service plans to relocate its Vancouver Island dispatch centre and Colwood ambulance station to an earthquake ready building on Leigh Road, near the Spencer interchange.
The two-storey building will house four ambulance bays and the dispatch service on City-owned land across from Spencer’s Pond. The project has a June 2013 deadline and the facility would employ about 60 people.
“The ambulance service will have great access to the highway and the core area,” said Langford fire Chief Bob Beckett, who was involved in discussions for establishing a new station in Langford. “From my perspective in emergency services, Langford will benefit greatly from having this resource in our community. We are going to have a modern, state of the art ambulance station.”
The ambulance service plans to move its Island communications centre from the Vancouver Island Technology Park in Saanich to Langford by July 2013, one of three such centres in the province. At the same time, the three-bay ambulance station on Jacklin Road would become redundant and shut down.
The ambulance service is leasing the building from Langford for 20 years, and will pay about $500,000 per year in operating costs and rent, according to lease documents.
Although the City owns the land, Keycorp Consulting in Langford is financing and constructing the building. Mayor Stew Young said Langford is acting as a “flow through” between the development company and BC Ambulance.
“It is a three-way partnership, but there is no money in it for the City,” Young said. “Langford is a flow-through. The contract is with us, and we have a contract with the person who will own the building.”
The final owner remains unclear. Jim Hartshorne, with Keycorp, said business details on ownership are still being finalized. Hartshorne, who has built other earthquake resistant buildings, estimates this 13,850 square foot ambulance station and dispatch centre will cost about $7 million.
“It is not a cheap building. Post-disaster is expensive,” he said. “But we are well on our way to making this happen. With what the ambulance service requires and when the interchange is built, you couldn’t find a much better location. It’s all about finding the right location at the right price.”
BC Ambulance spokesperson Kelsie Carwithen said the motivation to move to a new building is about improving patient care in the region and the West Shore. The project will provide “good value” to the taxpayer, she said.
To the irritation of a few West Shore politicians, this summer the ambulance service sent two of the three Colwood-based ambulances to Victoria during the day to balance the regional call load.
Carwithen said that three-month pilot project is complete and undergoing evaluation. She couldn’t say if the practice of relocating ambulances would impact the new four-bay station.
The station will be the first new building abutting the Spencer interchange, which remains unfinished. Langford is spending $2.5 million to rebuild and widen Leigh Road to three lanes and to build an northbound onramp to the Trans-Canada Highway.
Young hopes the ambulance dispatch is the start of government offices setting up shop in Langford. The City offers tax holidays to buildings built specifically for provincial or federal agencies.
“It’s time people can live and work on the West Shore, so they can have a five minute drive instead of an hour long commute in a traffic jam,” the mayor said. “Hopefully we’ll get some government offices out here. This station is the first inroad we’ve been able to do.”