Rescue squad serving Royalton, Sharon and Tunbridge fundraising for new station

An artist’s rendering of the proposed South Royalton Rescue facility, which is slated to go near the Royalton Town Office off Route 14. It includes a common space with a kitchen, two bunk rooms, three offices, a bathroom and laundry, as well as two bays for emergency vehicles and storage space. (Courtesy South Royalton Rescue)

An artist’s rendering of the proposed South Royalton Rescue facility, which is slated to go near the Royalton Town Office off Route 14. It includes a common space with a kitchen, two bunk rooms, three offices, a bathroom and laundry, as well as two bays for emergency vehicles and storage space. (Courtesy South Royalton Rescue)

By NORA DOYLE-BURR

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 12-02-2023 7:18 PM

SOUTH ROYALTON — The South Royalton Rescue Squad is about halfway to its goal of raising $865,000 for a new crew quarters and garage.

The squad responds to emergency calls in Royalton, Sharon and part of Tunbridge, as well as a 12-mile stretch of Interstate 89 for a total of roughly 480 calls annually, according to a Monday news release. Calls come in for issues such as heart attacks, broken bones, falls, car accidents, suspected drug overdoses and, increasingly, for mental health crises. The squad also provides mutual aid to nine neighboring towns.

The crew currently consists of five full-time employees and another eight or nine part-time workers. They are housed in two rented facilities, a bay in the South Royalton Fire District building on Park Street and a house a few hundred yards away at the corner of Park and South Windsor streets.

But the living quarters lacks private office or meeting space, and has limited storage.

“Of greatest concern are the cramped sleeping quarters and tiny kitchen,” according to the Nov. 27 release, which said that the ability to respond to calls quickly is compromised when crews lack appropriate space to sleep, eat and meet.

The squad is governed by the Royalton Fire District No. 1 Prudential Committee, comprised of people living in the district, and the SRRS Advisory Board, comprised of representatives from all three towns. It first started in the 1960s as a volunteer effort, but has since evolved into a crew of professional emergency medical technicians, advanced EMTs and paramedics who respond to calls anytime of day, any day of the year.

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The change from volunteers to employees came about 13 years ago as volunteers became scarce, SRRS Administrator Steve Sanborn said in a phone interview.

The house the squad currently rents is less than 1,000 square feet split between two floors and is about 120 years old, Sanborn said.

There’s “no good place to have a conversation with an employee,” he said.

Meanwhile, the one bay in the fire station where the squad parks its ambulance lacks storage space for things such as spare tires. Additionally, in order to clean the ambulance workers must move it outside, which can be challenging in winter months.

While discussions for improving the space situation for the rescue squad began several years ago, the issue was shelved in 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic began, Sanborn said. Now that the squad is back to normal operations, the project is “overdue,” he said.

Plans for the new facility, which is slated to go near the Royalton Town Office off Route 14, include a common space with a kitchen, two bunk rooms, three offices, a bathroom and laundry, as well as two bays for emergency vehicles and storage space.

The project is estimated to cost $865,000, of which the committee had raised $370,525, or 43%, as of Monday. If the squad receives all the grants it’s applied for, Sanborn said, it is more than halfway to its goal.

The squad’s operations are funded by reimbursement for its services from insurance companies and from annual municipal contributions. The operating budget for the current fiscal year is about $590,000, Sanborn said. The squad does not plan to increase its requests to the municipalities to fund this project, he said.

The Royalton Selectboard approved a lease agreement with the Prudential Committee for the parcel at 2460 Vt. Route 14 on Crawford Lane at its Nov. 14 meeting, Victoria Paquin, the town administrator, said in an email. The parcel is sufficient to accommodate a building of 4,400 square feet and eight parking spaces. The initial term of the lease is 40 years, for which the squad will pay $40.

If all goes well, Sanborn said, construction of the new building could begin in the spring, and the squad could move in next fall. That’s the “most optimistic timeline,” he said.

More information is online at: southroyaltonrescue.com/building-project.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.