DANBURY — An ambulance crew serving the west side of the city sits in parking lots waiting for a call.
But soon an ambulance, equipment and personnel will have their own building on Wooster Heights, which is expected to reduce response times and better serve the growing west side.
Rizzo Construction Company is donating the building, which was constructed in the soon-to-open senior living community, Keystone Place. The city will rent the facility for a $1 a year, with City Council unanimously approving Tuesday evening a 99-year lease.
“Not only is this just a generous and thoughtful thing, clearly there will be lives saved and affected by this,” said Matt Cassavechia, the city’s emergency management director.
It would have cost the city about a half million dollars to build a facility itself, the mayor estimated.
“This is a good thing for this city, positioning that ambulance in the right spot,” Mayor Mark Boughton told City Council.
The west side of the city has seen rapid growth with the development of places like Abbey Woods, Rivington by Toll Brothers and soon the Summit @ Danbury. A fire station on Kenosia Avenue covers the west side, while a police substation is planned for the Summit.
The growth has sparked calls for an ambulance building in the area, too.
“They can’t sit in a truck all day long,” said Paul Rotello, a City Council member who has pushed for an ambulance facility. “We recognized they needed a place.”
Ambulance calls are common in senior living settings, said Diane Manzi, executive director of Keystone Place at Wooster Heights, which is expected to open mid-November and has 55 independent living, 63 assisted living and 22 memory care apartments.
“It’s certainly going to provide a level of comfort to all the residents that live within the community to have an EMS situated right on the property,” Manzi said. “It’s also a great addition to the west side of Danbury to have this over here.”
The building is down the road from where Danbury Proton proposes building a cancer treatment center, which Rotello said could attract more medical facilities and increase demand for ambulances.
The exterior of the building is complete, but some interior items remain to be finished, said Anthony Rizzo, Jr., owner of the construction company. He expects the EMS crew could move in Dec. 1.
The facility includes a bathroom, bunk area and efficiency kitchen, he said.
“What was very important to me was to treat our first responders and our emergency response team like human beings,” Rizzo said
The building cost the company between $350,000 to $400,000 to construct, but would have been more expensive for the city because of the bidding process and need to acquire property, Rizzo said.
Cassavechia and Rizzo have been talking about the building ever since Rizzo saw Cassavechia present on how EMS operates on the west side.
An ambulance is deployed to the west side for particular hours and does not have a home base, Cassavechia said. Crews must drive around the area or sit in parking lots, such as the Danbury Fair mall, he said.
Cassavechia plans to reevaluate the coverage model for the west side, potentially expanding the hours an ambulance is there.
“As more and more activity is on the west side, the needs for emergency medical services will undoubtedly increase,” he said.
The building has easy access to Mill Plain Road and Interstate 84, which will cut down on response times, Cassavechia said.
It takes about 71/2 minutes for an ambulance to get from Danbury Hospital to the west side, but an average of four minutes for an ambulance on the west side to respond to a call in that area, he said.
“When you’re talking about a critical life, time-sensitive situation, those four minutes are critical,” Cassavechia said. “It’s literally life or death.”