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Monday, May 2, 2016

Clay Co. may get locally based air ambulance

Thursday, September 4, 2003

September has kicked off to a whiz-bang start this year, with meetings and discussions galore by way of the County Council and Commissioners.

One of the (many) topics of discussion as of late has been tax restructuring and the effect it would have on Clay County's economy. More business means more jobs means more taxes, and Brazil (and its surrounding towns) are hungry for all three.

Air Evac Lifeteam, located in West Plains, Mo., has been courting Brazil for a time now, talking about the possible installation of a new branch. The company, which provides lifeline support via helicopter, centers around rural areas and may select Brazil's airport as an annex.

"Healthcare in rural areas is just as important as that provided in metropolitan areas," County Commissioners Vice President Daryl Andrews said, "in that we must have quality in service and access. Clay County is unique in both shape and size, and advanced access to hospitals is obviously better the faster it can be provided."

Air Evac contacted the county first, informing St. Vincent Clay Hospital Administrator Rich Johansen of their desire to come to Brazil. Johansen stresses, however, that the agreement is very far from done and that there's no guarantee that the group will even finalize its plan with Brazil included.

"They're looking at several places, and I don't want to go as far as to say we're the 'primary choice,'" said Johansen. "I don't want to give any false hopes, because several counties are looking at them, too."

It is speculated that other interested counties include Parke, Putnam, Vigo, and Hendricks.

Johansen even spoke as part of the hospital board at a recent County Commissioner meeting, singing the praises of the group in what he believes is a very objective manner.

"I don't have any buy-in on this," he said. "Most of the persons collected will be taken to places like Indianapolis or Terre Haute. As a citizen, I just see an opportunity to raise our level of emergency medical

response, and this service has proven to be lifesaving in the past."

He continued to say that LifeLine, a group based in Indianapolis, already serves Clay County but has an approximate arrival time of 18 to 20 minutes after liftoff.

Estimated costs to bring the company to Clay County, should they choose to come here, were around $105,000. This money would build a hangar for a helicopter, fuel tanks for it, and quarters for the crew. Additionally, the company is speculated to bring an approximate 14 jobs to Brazil. Andrews believes that the proposition could be profitable for all those involved if worked properly.

"It's still a little early to tell exactly how this could come out," he said, "but if we work out a proper agreement on fuel profit margins, I think this will be a win-win situation for Air Evac, Clay County, its residents, and the airport."

Andrews also said that there are "several different options" when it comes to funding the project, and that the fact that Air Evac contacted the county first is "probably a good indication of the fact that Clay County is open for business.

"With a little investment on the city's part, there could be good returns," he explained. "Hopefully this will be the first of many businesses to come to the county."

The Commissioners are set to view a presentation from Air Evac during their monthly meting on Oct. 6. All residents are invited to attend.

Air Evac officials could not be reached for comment by press time.

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