ESD4 to expand helipad, loses backup ambulance in Moore

ESD#4 treasurer Billy Alvarado, foreground, and assistant treasurer Juan Zamora measuring the existing helipad at the ambulance district headquarters. Improvements will also be made to the driveway leading up to the helipad to make it safer for transferring patients. Photo by Anton Riecher.

Medina County’s Emergency Service District No. 4 board of directors agreed April 5 to extensive cost cutting regarding proposed helipad improvements at the ambulance headquarters in Devine.
The board dropped a proposal calling for a 92½-foot square, six-inch deep concrete helipad with extensive lighting in favor of extending the existing 20-foot square helipad with an additional 10 feet in skirting, possibly using concrete
Further improvements would be made to slope the driveway approaching the helipad to allow better access. Lighting improvement would be limited to illumination of the helipad wind sock.
Following a presentation by ESD No. 4 Treasurer Billy Alvarado on anticipated costs, the board voted unanimously to appoint Alvarado manager of the project based on his background in construction.
Alvarado said the cost of the suggested Federal Aviation Administration approved helipad could be as much as $80,000.
“Just in concrete alone we would be looking at about $30,000 to $40,000,” he said.
However, nothing states that the helipad in Devine needs to meet full FAA standards, he said. Instead, Alvarado suggested making use of the existing helipad in the proposed expansion.
“The pad right now is 20 feet by 20 feet,” Alvarado told the board. “The slab is solid with no cracks.”
As previously proposed, the 92 square foot pad would require a system of eight landing lights around the perimeter. Each of those lights cost $650 to $1,000, Alvarado said.
“These helicopters have big spotlight that can light up the approach,” he said.
Money saved on the pad size and lighting might be applied instead to improving the headquarters parking lot sloping up to the pad, he said.
Alvarado accepted the project manager position with the understanding that he may be moving outside the ESD No. 4 district in the near future. The move would require him to step down from the ESD No. 4 board, he said.
A response time report for March submitted by Allegiance District Chief Patrick Bourcier showed a total of 188 calls for the month of which 117 were in the Devine area. Overall response time averaged seven minutes with 43 percent within five minutes, 32 percent between six and nine minutes and 25 percent requiring 10 minutes or more.
In the Devine area, response time averaged six minutes. Eighty-one percent of Devine area calls required a response time of nine minutes or less. Only 19 percent required a response time of 10 minutes or more.
Board members questioned Bourcier with regard to an increase in calls originating in the Lytle. Primary ambulance service for that area is provided by Atascosa County with ESD No. 4 ambulances called in to handle the overflow.
“The call volume in that area, Lytle, has increased dramatically,” Bourcier said. He said he expected that trend to continue as more subdivisions open in that area.
In other business matters, Bourcier approached the board about setting up its own Internet account to handle the ESD No. 4 website. The website is currently maintained by Crux Technologies, a company affiliated with Allegiance.
A treasurer’s report submitted by ESD administrator Christy Merendon showed the district with a balance of $699,343 split between two banks. At Community National Bank money is split between $231,715 in an operating account and $125,002 in a savings account. At Security State Bank the district holds a money market account containing $237,999 and a certificate of deposit for $104,625.
Editors Note: The ESD 4 currently funds two full time ambulances to serve the Devine and Natalia area at a cost of $17,666 per month. The ambulance that was in Moore pulled out in recent months, so we no longer have that nearby back up unit which was being offered by Allegiance free of charge for a short time.
Several months ago, Devine Fire Chief Greg Atkinson addressed the ESD to let them know that Devine VFD hasn’t had any trouble landing helicopters on the existing pad, and many times, the helicopter lands right on the scene of an accident instead. He acknowledged that the EMS company does a good job, but he suggested that the residents of ESD4 would be better served by increasing the number of ambulances in Devine/Natalia based on some the response times to the calls he has helped with. Another citizen, echoed that sentiment, sharing how long her family waited for an ambulance on two separate occasions in the past few years.
ESD 4 Board meetings are held on the first Tuesday of the month unless otherwise posted.

By Anton Riecher
Devine News Correspondent