City of Newberry to get their first ambulance

NEWBERRY, Fla. (WCJB) - Speedy ambulance service can be sporadic for residents of parts of North Central Florida.

That’s changing for residents of one growing community.

The fire department in Newberry has never had an ambulance, the closest one is nine miles away in Jonesville.

Five years ago Morgan Lee Smith of Newberry received a call no parent would ever want to hear.

His child had just been bitten by a rattlesnake.

“Bitten by the upper thigh, which is one of the worst places to be bitten,” he said.

A family friend drove his eleven-year-old son, Benjamin, to fire department paramedics in Newberry.

“Then they waited on the ambulance, which took a little while to get here,” Smith said.

The ambulance took 45 minutes to arrive.

As Smith pulled into the driveway to see his son about to be taken to the hospital, he could only think about one thing.

"Whenever you have a hurt child, just the thought that they would be safe,” he said.

The Smiths' experience sparked an interest in city and county leaders to build an ambulance bay in town.

This project has been in the works for more than 8 months.

On Thursday the Alachua County Commission approved to fund Newberry’s first ambulance.

Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe says the ambulance will bring down wait times to a goal of 8 to 10 minutes.

“If you're in need of immediate medical attention, it makes a difference,” Smith said.

The new service will cost the county more than $700,000 but will save them more than $100,000 per year.

Since their trip to the hospital five years ago, Smith's son has fully recovered form the rattlesnake bite.

His dad says he's glad to see positive changes in their growing hometown.

"Well anytime the community gets an upgrade it benefits everybody,” he said.

The mayor says the ambulance should be at the Newberry station ready to go on calls by spring of next year.