Even in a bad economy the Town of Smyrna continues to grow in multiple ways, including healthcare and public safety.

Just over a month ago, Bayhealth opened their Emergency Department in Smyrna. The new American Legion Ambulance 64 on Route 6 is expected to be open in March. Later this spring, construction is expected to begin on the long-needed but put off Smyrna Police Department expansion.

As the town continues to grow, Town Manager Dave Hugg said these projects are the types of things the town has to think about so they're prepared for the future.

"One of the long range sort of strategic planning issues that we have to deal with is to make sure as the town grows, not only by numbers and area, that we have locations already identified for future public safety needs," Hugg said. "You don't want to wake up one day and ask where are we going to put the school, where are we going to put the fire station."

Bayhealth ER exceeds expectations

Bayhealth opened their 24-hour Emergency Department at their Smyrna-Clayton Medical Services Campus on Carter Road in December. The eight-bed, full-staffed facility was built to answer an expressed need by residents, local EMS, state agencies and physicians, according to Bayhealth CEO Terry Murphy.

In a ribbon cutting ceremony, Murphy told the crowd that in 2011, American Legion Ambulance 64 transported 2,800 patients to Kent General's emergency department. With the new emergency department, Bayhealth is cutting 12 miles and time off the trip.

Dr. Steven Talbot, the medical director of the department, said things have been going very well since the ER opened nearly two months ago.

"We're seeing a good number of people above what we initially expected, but things are running very smoothly," Talbot said.

Some days Talbot and his staff will see 30 people, while some days bring in upwards of 60 patients. As it's a full-service facility, Talbot said they see everything from congested heart failure to upper respiratory infections.

Since the emergency department has seen more people than expected, Talbot said they are bringing on more staff including paramedics to assist in the ER and to transfer patients, more nurses, and more technicians so they can continue to take good care of patients.

Ambulance construction almost complete

The journey to bring a new ambulance department to Smyrna has been a work in progress but is almost here as construction is expected to be complete in February with the department opening in March.

The 14,000 square foot station will be substantially larger than the current building on Glenwood Avenue and will better serve the growing Smyrna and Clayton communities. The new location at the intersection of Route 6 and Route 300 puts the station in the middle of the two towns and adjacent to the Bayhealth Emergency Department.

American Legion Post Commander Mike Havel said the new facility will allow for Ambulance 64 to house six ambulances instead of the two ambulances and one Suburban they have now. Ambulance Service Director Allan Post also hopes having the new station will lead to more volunteers. There are roughly 30 volunteers working with the nine full-time and 16 part-time staff members.

Smyrna Mayor Pat Stombaugh said with having a son who's an EMT, she kind of understands what goes on behind the scenes and understands the need for a new ambulance station.

"Emergency care is one of the most important things to offer to citizens," Stombaugh said. "The town has more than doubled with the growth. We owe it to our citizens to have this provision."

Police station expansion moving forward

After years of discussions that went back and forth on the need of a new police station, the town plans to start construction on the $3.5 million police station expansion this spring with an expected completion date of May 2014.

The new police expansion will address the issues of the current facility, including the logistics of not having all the officers under one roof and lack of space, which includes for officers, storage and holding cells.

However, Police Chief Wil Bordley said the bigger building will also help with the future growth of the town.

"As the town moves forward and grows, we don't want to have infrastructure issues to worry about," Bordley said. "And not have the ability to accommodate more officers to address the needs of the citizens."

Email Jennifer Dailey at jennifer.dailey@doverpost.com.