Replacing Forest ambulance station may cost $2.1 million

Photo courtesy Lambton  Shores Forest Ambulance Base

Photo courtesy Lambton Shores
Forest Ambulance Base

It may take big bucks to improve or replace the out-of-date Forest Ambulance Station.

Lambton County CAO Ron VanHorne says it may cost between $1.5 million and $2.1 million to upgrade the former barn which houses the county’s vehicles.

A report to county councilors says the existing station was built in the 1970s to store fuel delivery trucks and was converted to house ambulances later that decade. At that time, vans were used and the operation was open 10 hours a day not 24.

In the last three years, the county has spent $51,000 in repairs on things such as air conditioning, repairing the ceiling and dealing with a rodent infestation.

A consultant hired by the county took a look at the current station to figure out how to either renovate it to bring it up to the Ontario Building Code and make it accessible while meeting the needs of the paramedic or build an entirely new station. Kongat Architechs says it would cost about $1.5 million to $2.1 million to either repair or replace the station. That shocked county councilors.

“I’m looking at the cost of this and it is extremely high,” says Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley.

VanHorne agreed saying several years ago, when the province made ambulance service a municipal responsibility, the county built several new facilities. “When we built the other stations it was significantly cheaper,” he says. “They were $300 or $400,000 but then we bought a set plan and built them all over the county.

“Staff has a concern, too. It was nowhere near what we were building (the stations) for.”

Compounding the problem is the lack of funding for building new ambulance stations. In a report to council the manager of Emergency Medical Services, Jeff Brooks, says the Ministry of Health “does not provide upfront funding for capital investments.” Instead the ministry pays the municipality 50 percent of the mortgage of the asset so eventually the county could recover 50 percent of the cost from the province.

Brooks hopes to come back to council at the end of the year with a revised plan to replace the station.


– Heather Wright