Don Smith, 60, the longtime chief of the Monroe Volunteer Emergency Medical Service, envisioned a facility that meets the needs of volunteers and staff and worked with town officials over the years to make it a reality. Before succumbing to cancer this past summer, he saw a project for the addition and renovation of the EMS headquarters at 54 Jockey Hollow Road finally get off the ground.
After the completion of the building, Smith’s presence was still felt by all during a dedication and open house on Saturday. When the current EMS chief, Craig Rosenberg spoke to visitors gathered inside the ambulance bays, he called Smith a “leader, a visionary, a mentor and a friend.”
“This station that we’re sitting in is his vision,” Rosenberg said. “It’s just something he spent so much time on and had so much passion about, and I’m so glad he got to see that come to fruition. I truly know he is here with us today. Don invested countless hours ensuring this station would meet our needs.”
“I’m honored to have his wife Amy here, his sons Shawn and Michael,” Rosenberg said. “You’re always part of our EMS family. I hope you know that.”
He said the improved facility has space for training, community education classes, and bedroom, bathroom and shower facilities for the EMS’s 24/7 operation, along with spaces for members to come together, ready to respond and to decompress and debrief after calls.
During the dedication ceremony for the $4.6 million building project, First Selectman Ken Kellogg read a proclamation declaring, “Monroe’s Emergency Medical Service headquarters shall be dedicated to the memory of Donald E. Smith the III.”
Smith’s wife Amy, who stood beside her two sons in front of the room, was visibly moved and the room filled with applause as Kellogg and Town Councilman Terry Rooney, chairman of the EMS Building Committee, unfurled a banner with the names of all of the key players involved in the project.
Kellogg said Rooney arranged for the banner, while they await for an official plaque to arrive, which will be hung prominently inside the building.
The first selectman recognized the late Smith for his 22 years of dedication to the MVEMS, including 12 as chief, while sharing his training, skills and experience gained from serving with multiple emergency service agencies and disciplines with the community. Kellogg said Smith was the “driving force” for the building project.
Members of the building committee, the EMS Commission, leadership of the EMS, Smith’s family and State Rep. Tony Scott, R-Monroe, came up to the front of the room for a ribbon cutting ceremony, in which Kellogg did the honors to applause.
The rest of the day included tours of the building, demonstrations, activities for children and question and answer sessions with emergency medical technicians. Rosenberg said all are welcome to join the Monroe EMS team, adding space is still available for its EMT course on Oct. 3.
A community effort
Both Kellogg and Rooney recognized former State Rep. J.P. Sredzinski for his role early on in the project in securing a $500,000 Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant.
Kellogg thanked Sredzinski’s successor, Scott, for his assistance in bringing the project to completion.
Burlington Construction Co., the construction manager, and the architect, Jakunski Humes Architects LLC, also received praise for their roles in speeches.
Rosenberg thanked all of the contractors and subcontractors for their patience in allowing the EMS to operate its 24/7 operation throughout construction.
The first selectman thanked the many town officials involved, especially the Town Council, noting Rooney, Sean O’Rourke and Dee Dee Martin, who were present at the ceremony.
Kellogg extended his thanks to the Board of Finance, “without their support this would not have happened,” he said, “and obviously to the voters of Monroe, who also approved this project at a town meeting.”
“I want to give special thanks to the EMS Building Committee, but before I do that I want to point out Mr. Dennis Condon who is sitting here, because Dennis was on a prior committee, an EMS feasibility study that we did many years ago to basically prove that this was feasible and possible.”
The EMS Building Committee included: Chairman Terry Rooney, Vice Chairman Michael Vitello, John Brenna (who is chairman of the EMS Commission), David Orr, Domenic Paniccia, John Ostaszewski and Robert Westlund.
Kellogg gave special recognition Rooney and Brenna.
The first selectman praised all emergency medical responders for helping those in need of assistance, most often strangers and frequently in dangerous, unknown and chaotic situations.
“This building, this facility, addition and renovation is for you and for our community,” Kellogg said to the EMS members, “because you deserve to have good working space to respond out of, to be prepared, to train, to train our community — and we need to help you, so that you can do the best for our citizens and our visitors here in Monroe.”
“This investment in the Monroe EMS is truly an investment in our entire community, but I really want to thank all the volunteers for what you do,” Kellogg said.
Rooney thanked the EMS volunteers for what they do every day. “We watch TV and know the name of the celebrity, but we don’t know your name after you saved our life and we thank you for that,” he said. “This building, it’s for you.”
Rooney thanked all of the members he worked with on the EMS Building Committee.
“It was a very big undertaking. We tried to keep things within budget during COVID, material delays — this was not an easy task,” he said. “Every meeting had an outcome and every meeting, we didn’t waste anybody’s time. It was critical to make decisions every time we got together. But I think we got a good result and I hope everyone of you enjoys this building, and I hope you’re happy with it.”
Rooney thanked Kellogg for his support of the project.
“Thank you for trusting me, all of you, on this project,” Rooney said of his chairmanship. “It’s been an honor.”
Rosenberg thanked the building committee, town and state officials, contractors and Bella Medaris, an EMT and EMS volunteer who planned the open house. He also thanked nearby residents for putting up with dust and disruptions to their neighborhood during construction.
“Today’s about more than a building,” Rosenberg said. “It’s actually about people and, first and foremost, it’s about the 1,900 people in Monroe who call 911 every year for emergency medical help, and its about the dedicated group of volunteers and staff who answer those calls. We’re truly neighbors helping neighbors. That’s our passion and I’m so thankful to be volunteering in our new home with such an amazing and diverse group of volunteers focused on our common goal, so thank you to those folks.”
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