City and county leaders joined members of the Smithville-DeKalb County Rescue Squad in breaking ground Monday for the construction of a new facility beside the current location near Green brook Park.
The Smithville Aldermen last month voted to give the rescue squad members authorization to do the construction which is on city property.
Joe Johnson, a member of the Rescue Squad building committee, told WJLE at the groundbreaking Monday that the new building will be large enough to store more of the rescue squad vehicles and equipment at one location. "It's going to be 36' x 60'. It's going to be metal truss with 6 x 6 pressure treated posts for the sides. It will be all metal construction on the outside. It'll be close to matching the same color of the (existing) rescue squad building. It'll have three (bay) doors to enter from the rear and three to enter from the front where we'll be able to drive through. It will house two trucks and two boats with an extra bay for future use. In the future, we hope to buy a pontoon boat so we can get more people to the sites faster. Right now we have two boats and two trucks to pull the boats. Both trucks are four wheel drive. We have a 1969 model four wheel drive that we use to go in rough places and during the winter time. We have a box truck that can double as an ambulance in an emergency. We have a Gator for going off road and a trailer to carry it on along with generators and other odd equipment we need to store in this building. Some of our equipment is scattered around at the homes of Rescue Squad members where we can keep them (equipment) inside. We have to gather them (equipment) up when we get a call which takes time. Our call times are important. We're trying to get everything together in one spot so when we get a call we can leave from one place and improve our response time," said Johnson.
The county has budgeted $8,700 for the new rescue squad building and $1,700 for new rollup doors on the existing building. The county also provides annual funding to the rescue squad for operation as a non-profit organization. This year the amount is $16,821. The City of Smithville budgets $1,500 toward the operation of the rescue squad.
The new facility will be built at no extra cost to the city, according to Johnson. In addition to the county's contribution, the rest of the money is being raised from private donations and fundraisers. " The county has donated $8,700 and we have matched that with Rescue Squad funds from fundraisers. We're still going to be short by about $5,000 to $6,000. We'll probably need more fund raisers. It would probably be a $30,000 building if you hired it built. We hope to get in there for about $19,000 to $20,000 dollars. If we have to, we can operate on gravel and not pour concrete but we'd like to have a concrete floor," he said.
Plans are to have the building completed by the end of January using mostly volunteer labor from the Rescue Squad members themselves. "Our goal was to have it done by December 31 but because of the time to get the trusses made, which we had to get specially built, that slowed us up about three or four weeks. I'm estimating now that we'll have it done by January 31. We're using all Rescue Squad labor so when we get off work, evenings, and Saturdays, that's when we're putting in our own time on it," said Johnson.
In addition to searching for drowning victims, the rescue squad also conducts cave rescues and searches for missing persons. Earlier this summer, Johnson explained how that the rescue squad and others came to the aid of a man who had fallen and suffered broken bones while trying to climb a steep rock formation at Center Hill Lake. After making their way up the steep bluff, rescue workers reached the man, placed him in a stokes basket and used rappelling equipment to safely bring him down. "We recover bodies from the lake. If someone gets hurt in a remote location where an ambulance cannot go we can take our manpower and stokes baskets to them. If they fall off bluffs we lower ropes down to them and bring them back up. We do rescues during times of flooding to get people out. We even rescue animals. We are also an auxiliary for Smithville and DeKalb County. If city or county fire departments need extra manpower, we can help," he said.
Members of the rescue squad voluntarily give of their time and effort without compensation. " We have 30 active members and honorary members, those who have been on the rescue squad for at least ten years, and they all work for zero pay," said Johnson.
Through their membership with the Tennessee Association of Rescue Squads, Incorporated, the local rescue squad receives assistance from other county rescue squads when needed to help conduct search and recovery efforts.
Present for the groundbreaking were Zach Smoot, Phil Wilkey, Brian Keith, Frankie Bryant, City Public Works Director Kevin Robinson, Jason Majors, Kristie Johnson, Smithville Mayor Jimmy Poss, Rescue Squad Captain Dustin Johnson, County Mayor Mike Foster, and Joe Johnson.