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Permanent LIFESTAR station could improve emergency response times in county

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JACKSBORO—A LIFESTAR medical helicopter and crew may soon be stationed permanently at the Campbell County Airport to allow for better response times to emergency situations in northern reaches of the county.

The Campbell County Commission voted 12-0 Monday to consider a proposal by LIFESTAR partner Med-Trans to construct a helicopter base just outside the airport fence on Memorial Drive. Commissioners absent for the meeting included David Adkins, Steve Rutherford and Bob Walden. Mayor William Baird was also absent.

Proposed terms of the agreement include:

•Payment of $14,700 per year to the county for construction and rental of a 4,900 square foot building footprint.

•Payment of 30 cents per gallon of fuel to the county at a maximum estimate of 12,000 gallons a year ($3,600 annually).

“What we’re talking about here is an expression of intent,” county attorney Joe Coker said. “There’s going to have to be a formal agreement entered into. It’s not something where you are going to take this half page (document) and go with it.”

The only potential hang-up is a proliferation of tree stumps in the area, which resulted in poor bore samples for a building site. That, alone, could cost Med-Trans $70,000 in site prep work for removal of the stumps and filling holes left behind. Commissioners said that estimate could also be lower than projected.

To recoup the loss, officials from Med-Trans have proposed prorating credit of $583 per month for rental of the facility, leaving a balance due to the county of $642 per month.

The Campbell County Airport Committee also signed off on the proposal Monday.

Commissioner Rusty Orick said Med-Trans approached the county in 2007 about building a helicopter base here. He said the commission was slow to act and Anderson County ended up getting a LIFESTAR station instead.

Earlier this year, officials from Med-Trans inquired about building a helicopter base in East LaFollette, but backed off following community resistance to a 5,000 above ground fuel storage depot.

The idea behind the fuel depot is so medical helicopters would not have to fly to a facility in neighboring Scott County in order to refuel.