There were signs and words of approval from members of Aiken County Council as they toured the renovated York Street Annex and the brand new EMS Substation 5 next door on Tuesday.

They were accompanied by Aiken County Emergency Services Director Tommy Thompson, Buildings and Grounds Supervisor Kip Gunter, EMS Coordinator Harvey Jay and other members of staff who offered refreshers on what the space looked like previously, then explained how it is functioning now.

The York Street Annex (which is the former Coca-Cola bottling plant) is now home not only to the administrative offices for Emergency Management, Buildings and Grounds, and EMS, but there is even storage space on site for the coroner’s office.

In December 2010, Aiken County purchased the 2.71-acre site and the adjoining 2.06-acre site to be the headquarters for EMS, which was housed in the basement of the County Complex. The cost to purchase the land was approximately $1.5 million.

Then, the County discovered the building was not up to code for habitation, which is required for on-call EMS staffers. The decision was made to build a separate substation, which now sits beside the annex.

“That freed up space in the warehouse – that is now Buildings and Grounds. I feel like we took lemons and made lemonade,” said Assistant Administrator Brian Sanders. “I couldn’t be happier with the facility.”

The total project cost to renovate the existing structure and the construction of the new substation is roughly $1.5 million. Approximately $327,000 of that was federal stimulus money used for energy conservation upgrades, including new windows, new HVAC systems, lighting and insulation.

Thompson said the larger facility permits the secure storage of every piece of equipment, from back boards to medication to HAZMAT equipment. In addition, all of it is now under one roof instead of being scattered around the county.

“The storage area is now two times what we had before,” he said.

The top floor of the annex is primarily comprised of a training room where staff complete in-service training once a month.

“We will offer the training room to other agencies. We’ll reach out to fire and law enforcement because we’re part of a team,” Thompson said.

Before the opening of the York Street Annex, staff training was conducted in the auditorium in Council chambers.

“You got a better facility than we do,” joked Councilman Chuck Smith.

Gunter thanked Council for their work in approving the project, saying Buildings and Grounds was cramped in its old location behind the County Complex.

EMS and Emergency Management were previously in the basement of the County Complex, which was the morgue when the building still served as a hospital. Space was tight; the only storage space available was outside.

“This is not like the old place where everything is on the outside of the building; everything is inside,” Jay said of the new Substation 5.

The substation is 1,600 square feet. The ambulance bay is 800 square feet, and the living quarters are about 800 square feet, including two bedrooms, one bathroom, a small living/dining room and a small kitchen. The design of the substation is the model for which all future substations will be built upon.

In the new substation, on-call staffers can have down time, according to Jay.

In the County Complex, they were practically on top of management. But, now, they have space they can call their own.

“Congratulations on the job you did. Take good care of it; you’ll own it for a long time,” Smith said.