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Proposed ban on helicopter, helipad backward step for care

Helicopter activity within the Grangeville city limits: The issue returns again, and this time the move is to prohibit it.

This would be a step backward for regional health care and safety awareness.

To recap, readers may remember the city’s decision in May to deny Syringa Hospital a conditional use permit to develop a helipad across from the facility, primarily citing concerns for public safety and the disruption such activity would cause. With the dust settled and having had time to muse on the issue, the council now looks to clarify its city codes on the matter with language specific to helicopters and helipads.

To its credit, the city looks favorable on providing exceptions for obvious emergency uses, such as law enforcement; that is an obviously needed addition. And the municipality in this rule change is diligent in looking to provide clarity in its regulations on allowed uses within its jurisdiction.

That being said, prohibiting such activity would not be a step forward for the city.

Helicopters landing within the city limits have historically not been frivolous undertakings but rather part of activities relevant to the betterment of the public. Notable of these are two annual events: the Grangeville High School Sober Graduation event, and the Grangeville EMT Spring Fling Conference. Both are organized and operated by professionals whose primary job is public safety, so we’re breathing easy knowing they’re in charge of having whirlybirds touch down among people, homes and structures.

The hospital’s helipad proposal was no different in its public benefit: a convenient location to quickly transfer patients to improve their chances for survivability as well as reduce disability. Residents, including those in rural and remote locations, testified at planning and zoning hearings to the value they see in saved minutes to their health care.

Our concern in what may come about in a proposed ordinance is diminishing the impact and awareness generated at the GHS and EMT events. For the hospital, such a prohibition hampers its bottom line: providing the best product (health care) it can for its consumers (mostly district taxpayers). Just to expand on that, we’d much prefer the hospital to develop its preferred plan to incorporate a helipad atop the facility; it’s a better, more convenient solution in the long term, and we think it could be conducted safely. But a blanket prohibition ends that planned improvement, keeping to the time-burning status quo of ambulance transports to the airport.


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