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Council tables helicopter ordinance for review

— The Grangeville City Council is cooling down its approach in crafting an ordinance regulating helicopter activity within the municipal limits.

On a draft introduced in November, the council at its meeting last Monday, Dec. 7, voted 5 to 1 to table the ordinance – Councilor Pete Lane opposed – to allow for additional information to be considered, as well as to meet with representatives of the Grangeville EMT Association (GEMTA).

“Do we need it? Probably so,” said Councilor Beryl Grant, on the ordinance, which last month passed to the first reading. However, she said, after reviewing the ordinance along with information from GEMTA, Grant asked to put the second and third readings on hold and table the issue to allow more time to improve the proposal, and “not in a hurried manner.”

At the last draft, the proposed ordinance would prohibit helicopter landings and departures within city limits, allowing exceptions granted through a council-approved permit process. The ordinance would apply only to activity not conducted on landing sites approved by the council through the conditional use permitting process.

In tabling the issue, discussion was closed to the public, including to GEMTA members, several of whom were in attendance for Monday’s meeting. In assisting the council on ordinance preparation, GEMTA, prior to the Dec. 7 meeting, provided a three-page document of suggested changes to clarify language to avoid both encumbering and conflicting with existing processes and activities.

Other council business:

Council voted unanimously to send a letter to Sen. Jim Risch stating its opposition to the proposed Lochsa land exchange.

“It’s clear the people don’t support it,” stated Councilor Scott Winkler, with Councilor Shelley Dumas noting how the proposed swap would negatively impact lands around Grangeville.

Work is tentative to start in March 2016 on a project for Three Mile Creek. Council authorized the Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute for an approximate $90,000 319 grant to address temperature issues as part of the city’s federal permit for treated effluent discharge. Work will generally entail tree planting for shade, and excavation to increase creek depth.

The group suggested that in addition to chief of police or his/her designee to also include “responding EMS personnel” to those allowing helicopter activity authorization; and that the ordinance should not apply to emergencies – medical or law enforcement – to avoid an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy, and that would conflict with inter-facility transport from Syringa Hospital.

Suggestions were also made regarding the permitting process that may automatically exclude GEMTA’s permit requests. One was requiring proof of insurance, which they asked to change to “proof of liability” due to the coverage provided by associated groups – Mt View School District 244, and Life Flight — involved in GEMTA annual activities including the Spring Fling EMT education conference and GHS Sober Graduation.

To avoid an “unnecessary burden of time and energy” on GEMTA’s volunteer members, the group suggested notice for such helicopter events be published in the Idaho County Free Press seven days in advance, rather than door-to-door notification of residents and businesses within proximity to the location.

In tabling the proposal, Mayor Bruce Walker cautioned the council in members meeting with GEMTA members, specifically as regards the open meetings law. Up to three councilors, along with the mayor, could meet together for discussion, but this could not extend to a fourth council member, involvement of which would constitute a quorum, he explained, and violate the law.


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