MASON CITY - A modern new building that consolidates operations of Snell's Ambulance Service into one tastefully decorated location is a credit to all members of the Snell's Ambulance family.

Located at 600 First St. S.W., the ambulance company established in 1949 by Lewis Snell and his son, Lein, relocated Nov. 26 from its original location at Fifth Street and North Federal Avenue.

The 66-by-136-foot structure encompasses operations formerly housed at Snell's Service Station, Snell's Ambulance Service and an older home converted into a billing office behind the service station.

Earlier this year, the city purchased Snell's buildings for $300,000 to make way for the Northbridge downtown revitalization project. Snell's invested another $250,000 to relocate and rebuild.

"Everything for the ambulance is all here now," said Brad Meyer, one of four shift supervisors, looking from the reception room toward the area where on-duty employees live and work. "It's more efficient."

The site, just east of the First Street underpass, was chosen by Joan and Lee Snell after looking at many possible locations, said Meyer, a paramedic specialist. Joan and Lee are owners of the company, together with their mother, Charlotte, who retains major ownership.

"We have controlled intersections now to get out a lot quicker," Meyer said of the new location. "We don't have to worry about the train stopping us."

The new building is also more centrally located in town, he said.

Joan Snell did much of the interior decorating for the 9,000-square-foot structure herself, even installing much of the wallpaper and trim. She conceived the idea of refinishing the elegant woodwork from the old billing office and installing it in the reception area, Meyer said.

Even the old neon "Snell's Ambulance" sign used by Lein Snell has been preserved and installed above the service counter in the elegantly furnished reception room.

Although Henkel Construction Company built the basic shell of the building, Snell's 45 full- and part-time employees built the interior walls and did much of the interior work themselves, Meyer said. "It was a team effort to build this building," he said.

The building houses a large reception area and office space, which secretaries Vicki Higgins and Lori Brooks share. There is a bathroom off the front foyer that's as well-decorated as that of any home, as well as a dispatch room, a clean and comfortable kitchen-living room-game room, laundry room, classroom and six partitioned sleeping rooms.

Ambulance personnel work 24 hours on, 48 hours off. Most are licensed paramedics. The rest are certified emergency medical technicians.

The new Snell's also includes a large, high-ceilinged garage for its fleet of 10 ambulances. A service garage and two new decontamination rooms to disinfect equipment and restock packs of supplies are in a separate area.

Outside, a large parking lot promotes easier access for employees and members of the public. The blue-and-yellow-trimmed building matches the ambulances. A bright yellow awning hangs above the front entry.

Henkel Construction Company was general contractor. Clausen Plumbing & Heating did the plumbing, Air Care Inc. the heating and cooling, and Blazek Electric Inc. the electrical work.

Reach Kristin Buehner at 421-0533 or

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