Thursday, June 23, 2016

Helicopter hangar at Mercy Hospital remains a hot issue for residents

Kathryn's Report:

Though the City Commission rejected Valley Med Flight's initial request to build a hangar and place a fuel tank at Mercy Hospital, the issue is ongoing, according to Mayor Richard Johnson. "I would certainly revisit it if the application is in order," Johnson said.

Though the Devils Lake City Commission voted against a plan to build a hangar and install an 8,000 gallon fuel tank for the Valley Med Flight helicopter located at Mercy Hospital, the issue is still ongoing.

According to Mayor Richard Johnson, the primary issue involved zoning. Because the location of the proposed construction is in a high density residential zone, it would be necessary to adjust the city’s ordinance concerning the zoning of the neighborhood.

Johnson indicated that Valley Med Flight may have been better served if they had adhered to proper procedures when requesting to build the hangar, including consulting with the city on the proposed ordinance change. However, Johnson said that the issue is ongoing.

“I would certainly revisit it if the application is in order,” Johnson said.

Larry Liere of the Devils Lake Planning Commission agreed with the mayor’s assessment, and detailed some of the concerns involved with the hangar and fuel tank.

Liere said that some residents were concerned about a two story metal building being placed in close proximity to their property, reporting that one resident was concerned about “no longer being able to see the sunset.”

Because Valley Med Flight is a for-profit enterprise, Liere said that the construction of the hangar and placement of the fuel tank at the site is considered a business venture, which also requires a change in the ordinance concerning zoning.

However, Liere was also amenable to revisiting the issue.

“We’re more than willing to have (Valley Med Flight) come back with a different idea,” Liere said.

Residents remain divided on the issue, with some advocating for the hangar’s construction due to the perception that building the hangar at the airport would increase the time needed to evacuate patients in dire need of medical care.

Lorraine Christensen, who has lived across from Mercy Hospital since 1976, is one such resident.

“I feel that if they’re going to transport them into an ambulance, and they’re critical, they’ll die before they get to the hospital,” Christensen said.

A neighbor of Christensen’s, Michelle Zenk, agreed that evacuation of patients in the most timely fashion possible should be the chief focus.

“It makes no sense to me to come into the airport, get into an ambulance, because if you’re having to be in a helicopter you’re probably not stable enough to have to be moved again,” Zenk said.

Zenk, who moved to the neighborhood in May, also said that she hasn’t been bothered by noise generated by the helicopter.

“I thought that it was going to be an issue for me,” Zenk said. “It’s not an issue for me.”

One resident, who asked not to be named, also had no problem with noise associated with the helicopter. However, the idea of an 8,000 gallon fuel tank in a residential zone caused concern.

“I’ve listened to it for years, but having a big fuel tank bothers me a little bit,” the resident said. “(My concern) is leakage, an explosion. You get that much fuel, it’s a dangerous thing I think.”

Another resident, who also asked not to be named, agreed, while also pointing out that the service itself should remain despite objecting to the proposed hangar and fuel tank.

"We aren't opposed to the helicopter service, and the zone we live in isn't zoned for a hangar and fuel tank,” the resident said. “So no matter if we were opposed (to) it or not, the city zone rules don't allow for it to be done. We’ve survived without it for years.”

Though many in the neighborhood surrounding Mercy Hospital disagreed on the initial proposal concerning the hangar and fuel tank, everyone who spoke out agreed that the service was vital to the community.

Teresa Longie, who has lived in the neighborhood for about a year, supports both the service and the hangar.

“I think some people do have a point about seconds really counting when it comes to people’s lives,” Longie said. “I don’t mind it, it’s not an eyesore to me. I think it’s a benefit to the community.

“I wouldn’t be opposed to it if they did build it out here,” Longie added. “My mom actually had a stroke last year, and seconds really do count. Had she not made it to Fargo in time for her surgery, she wouldn’t be here today.”

Original article can be found here:

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