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Town seeks solution to STARS helipad closure

The new H145 helicopter used by STARS air ambulance is too big to land on the heliport at Fort Macleod Health Centre.

Fort Macleod council wants to get that situation solved as soon as possible.

“The heliport, to my way of thinking, is a necessity in Fort Macleod,” chief administrative officer Sue Keenan said, noting STARS has landed in town 44 times in recent years.

Council considered a report from Keenan during its April 12 meeting at the G.R. Davis Administration Building.

The Town of Fort Macleod was advised suddenly in December the helipad was closed and STARS is landing at the airport.

The helipad area must be expanded with additional lighting and markings.

“Alberta Health Services has no money dedicated to any of these capital upgrades,” Keenan told council.

Alberta Health Services has applied for funding from the Canadian Infrastructure Program.

If that application is not successful, Keenan suggested the Town of Fort Macleod could share costs with Alberta Health Services.

Coun. Werner Dressler expressed concern with a lack of communication prior to the heliport being closed.

Keenan agreed the town was only made aware of the situation in December, with no prior notice.

“We are one of several communities that are in this position,” Keenan said.

Keenan stressed that she raised the possibility ot cost-sharing the improvement with Alberta Health Services, not the other way around.

Keenan said council is under no obligation to contribute funding.

“But I do believe that it’s important enough given the history and how many landings we’ve had here — it’s about life,” Keenan said.

Dressler said he has heard from residents concerned that the Town of Fort Macleod might contribute financially.

Keenan pointed out the STARS volleyball tournament has long raised money for the operations of the air ambulance.

Keenan said council and the mayor could investigate further any political intrigue behind the situation.

Mayor Brent Feyter was in favour of investigating the situation further.

Coun. Kristi Edwards said she’s less concerned about finding out the background than she is in getting a solution.

“Now it’s about saving lives,” Edwards said.

Valuable minutes are lost in the drive from the hospital to the airport that could be the difference in saving someone’s life.

“To me, this isn’t a question of when, it’s how do we make it happen and what do we need to do as a community to make sure we have the best services available,” Edwards said.

“The decisions are done and our heliport isn’t big enough so let’s do what we need to do to fix it and make sure we have access to STARS when we need it.”

The work is estimated to cost from $632,000 to $877,000.

Council directed administration to continue working toward a solution.

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