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Riverhead Ambulance Corps seeking expansion of Osborn Avenue headquarters

The Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps is exploring the possibility of expanding its Osborn Avenue headquarters to create needed storage space.

Built in 1989, the RVAC building fits three ambulances and has storage closets along the back walls of the garage. However, as call volume has increased — from around 1,400 calls a year when it was built to 4,000 in 2016 — so has the need for equipment, making it difficult to find enough storage space, corps president Keith Lewin said.

To make storing and searching for items faster and more efficient, RVAC is seeking Town Board approval for a 20-by-38-foot addition to the back of the station, which currently measures 35 feet by 78 feet. The addition would be solely for storage and extend from the back wall of the ambulance bay.

“This property is constrained by how big of a building you can put here,” Mr. Lewin said. “You can’t add as much as we’d like, but we did a minimal layout [thinking,] ‘OK, if we’re never going to go anywhere else, what do we need?’ This is the storage part of that. The idea is this is what we need right now to remain functional.”

Over the years smaller pieces of equipment have been placed in bins on top of the existing cabinets or kept in the basement. That storage is now at capacity. In addition, much of the equipment is heat sensitive — especially medications such as NARCAN, pain relievers and burn medicines. This makes storage even more challenging because the air conditioning in the bay has difficulty keeping up with hot ambulances constantly coming in and out of the space, he said.

Mr. Lewin, who has been a corps member since it began in 1978 and has served as president for a total of eight years, said some items are also stored at their second facility in Jamesport, which is much smaller. It accommodates only one ambulance and has one office room inside, limiting the amount of space available.

Travel to the Jamesport facility, which isn’t manned full-time like the Osborn Avenue station, also makes it difficult to access equipment in an emergency, limiting what items can be kept there, he said.

A view inside the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps headquarters. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

“It’s not a huge deal, but it would really solve our storage problem,” he said of the proposed addition at Osborn Avenue.

RVAC members reached out to Councilman Tim Hubbard about the plan to see if it the Town Board would be receptive. He said he brought it up to board members at their work session last Thursday.

“Pretty much everyone was interested in letting them see what they could come up with,” Mr. Hubbard said, adding that RVAC’s next step would be talking to builders and getting cost estimates before appearing before the Town Board to formally seek permission.

While storage space is the focus of the proposed expansion, Mr. Lewin said RVAC also hopes to either pursue another addition or construct a larger building in a different location sometime in the future to address office and living needs.

Currently, the Osborn Avenue headquarters has an office with four desks that serve 13 people. The main level also has a living facility with two couches and a kitchen/meeting room. But with 60 active members and 17 full-time employees, meetings are held in the basement because none of those rooms can accommodate the crowd.

“We’d love to have more office space, we’d love to have more rooms, all these things,” Mr. Lewin said. “But the need right now is storage. That we absolutely have to have.”

Photo caption: Keith Lewin, president of the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps, shows a crowded storage closet at the RVAC station on Osborne Avenue. The corps would like to add a larger storage area to the building. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

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