The town intends to apply for a $300,000 Community Development Block Grant to help pay for the new building, which would be located on Hammond Avenue next to the existing police, fire and ambulance building.
The grant application is due in Nashville on Feb. 28, and one aspect of the application is the completion of surveys by homeowners affected by the grant.
One factor that improves a CDBG's chances of being approved is the number of people who will benefit from the project. Because Church Hill EMS will be housed in the new facility, county residents who are in the EMS service area are being included in the surveys along with Mount Carmel residents.
That's where the problem has been, because many of those county residents who received a survey in the mail apparently don't realize how important their participation is to the project.
"If they think it's just going to benefit the police department, people outside of Mount Carmel probably won't be too interested in responding," Mount Carmel Mayor Gary Lawson said. "But if Church Hill EMS is able to build an operating station here in conjunction with Mount Carmel, it's going to serve people outside the city limits of Mount Carmel as well. The police department benefits Mount Carmel, but the entire facility including EMS will also benefit the communities surrounding Mount Carmel.
"That's why we're asking everyone who gets a questionnaire to fill it out and send it in."
Most Hawkins County residents east of Surgoinsville should have received a survey. Lawson admitted that the survey might be a bit intrusive, especially the portion that asks for total household income.
But that's probably the most important part of the survey. It establishes a median household income for the area affected by the project, and that is weighed heavily when grant requests are judged by the state.
A stamped, addressed envelope was included with the survey, and the mayor is asking everyone who received a survey to either drop it in the mail or drop it off at Mount Carmel City Hall. The town is asking that all surveys be returned by Jan. 30.
Mount Carmel Police Chief Jeff Jackson said Wednesday the new facility is badly needed. The current facility is shared by police, fire and EMS, and Jackson said there's simply not enough room for all three agencies.
"The building we're in was designed to be a fire department, and we have over the years put EMS and the police department in it," Jackson said. "With storing records, our police investigation and interviews, the EMS activities going on, and fire training activities that have to be done, we're at a loss for space."
If the grant is approved, the existing building would be used solely for the fire department, and the new 7,200-square-foot building would be used for police and EMS.