By Justin Seward
Twenty-five municipal elected officials and Paul Carolan of HALO met on June 1 via Zoom to discuss funding avenues to keep the air ambulance in the air.
“It was very responsive,” said Dan Hamilton, Cypress County reeve.
“Everybody realizes that something needs to be done to keep HALO in the air. We’re looking at different modules to see if we can do it.”
The one-third model was discussed where that portion of shared costs would come from the 13 municipalities in HALO’s flight zone, from HALO’s fundraising efforts and the province.
“It came about because that’s the way the province has funded HERO(Fort McMurray-based air ambulance service) up north,” said Hamilton.
“So we’ve adopted it and put it in. We know that they’re already funding it up there so why wouldn’t they (the province) fund it down here if it’s the same scenario.”
Hamilton says that was the discussion and nothing was set in stone.
Now the reeves are taking the possible model to their councils and within a couple weeks they will know where the process is going, added Hamilton.
Hamilton wanted to make it known for funding that “we’re trying to put something together.”
“If we can put this together, well then the province will hopefully look up and say hey, these guys are doing it down here, everybody’s standing up for it, they’ve got to get involved themselves.’”
Municipalities in HALO’s flight zone have been waiting years for the province to get on board with funding for this local vital service.
“They’re not doing it,” said Hamilton.
“We’ve seen in the past other scenarios of splitting the costs of roads or splitting the cost of other things. The province seems to be stepping up and doing that. That’s why we looked at if that’s how they’re funding stuff, this is how we’re going to have to put something together to get it funded.”
It was brought up in the meeting that one of the municipalities had to get on board and spearhead the funding initiative and Cypress County was chosen.
“We were thanked by everybody that Cypress County had stepped up and taken the head role in this,” said Hamilton.
“Somebody needed to do it. Myself and my council are passionate about HALO. I don’t think you’ll find anyone in there that isn’t and it needed to be done.”
HALO’s chief executive officer, Paul Carolan, believes this model is a formalization as to where the air ambulance needs to be.
“We’ve always had a pretty strong relationship with those rural municipalities and they’ve contributed at different levels throughout the years to make sure the program is available and sustainable in this area,” said Carolan.
“Cypress County’s leadership and push towards that ongoing funding model is absolutely invaluable to us and it’s right in line with where the program should go and should be funded long term,” said Carolan.
“I think (there) was some really good questions on that call and a good turnout right across the southern part of the province as far as attendees go. I think overall the takeaway was really good support for the idea; certainly not the first time it’s been suggested, and even within those different rural municipalities I think those conversations may have happened, if not officially.”