John Newman, Idyllwild Arts Academy dean of students, discusses the school’s plans for a new health center at the recent Idyllwild Fire Protection District commission meeting. Photo by J.P. Crumrine
Members of Idyllwild Arts Academy staff discussed the plans for a new campus health center at last week’s Idyllwild Fire Protection District commission meeting.

“The new health center will be an extraordinary resource for us,” John Newman, Dean of Students and Director of Operations, told the fire commission. He said the new facility would be available for community use in case of a disaster on the mountain.

Based on meeting with Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz and Dr. Richard Goldberg of the local Mountain Disaster Preparedness group, Newman offered the health center as a medical triage center if an earthquake or other disaster were to occur on the Hill.

The new facility will be located in the dormitory area, with improved ambulance access, compared to the current health center across from Nelson Dining Hall.

It will be 2,800 square feet with 12 beds, two exam rooms and two private counseling rooms.

Newman also volunteered that Nelson Dining Hall normally has about two weeks of food available and could also serve as a staging area in event of a mountain disaster. “We’re well equipped to survive,” he said, adding that the health center will have medical supplies, though not surgical supplies, stocked.

“This is what our [Idyllwild Arts Academy] community could offer to the bigger community,” stressed Laura Sherman, the school’s project manager for new construction.

Both school officials said construction would require about 180 days to complete; however, they were unsure of a starting date. The school is seeking a will-serve letter from the Idyllwild Water District for this building and two others.

These and several more facilities received approval from Riverside County’s Planning Department in November.

“We are seeking your support,” Newman told the commission. “We don’t understand the reason for no will-serve letters.” IWD has been reviewing the school’s construction plans, which are much greater than these three buildings, for several months. Staff from both institutions have been corresponding and held several meetings through the winter.

The water district is looking at its ability to supply water to all of the buildings in the approved plan, as required by the county regulations. The school is currently focused on only its immediate facilities and stresses that future constuction will depend upon outside funding sources.

Reitz also told the board he had recommended that MDP provide a separate DAS for the school rather than share the existing DAS, on Tollgate, with the neighborhood. “I question whether it can serve the school and the neighborhood.”

When asked whether a helipad might be part of the new health center complex, Newman deferred to Reitz, who acknowledged the department was searching for alternative sites to the Astro Camp landing zone.

“We’re concerned with getting lift at various times,” he said. “But the alternative sites are weather-dependent. I don’t like the idea of just one landing zone.”

So, the department will continue to evaluate other sites, but Reitz did not think that the school could afford to establish a permanent landing zone on its campus.

Before adjourning the commission briefly discussed its budget. Commissioner Jerry Buchanan said there were a number of financial issues, which will be examined in the coming months, particularly as the 2013-14 budget is prepared.

Commissioner Dr. Charles “Chip” Schelly also asked his colleagues about preparing a two-year or five-year strategic plan, which they agreed to put on a future agenda.