Commission leaves burn ban in place, will mull medical chopper service contract

A bit more rain is needed before the Nolan County Commissioners Court will agree to lift the burn ban.The commission voted unanimously to leave the ban — which hasn't been lifted since late May — in place for now. "We want to see a general rain over most of the county before we lift the ban," said County Court Judge Tim Fambrough.The commission agreed to revisit the issue at the next regular meeting.A presentation by Randy Teague of AirMedCare Network focused on bringing more comprehensive coverage to Nolan County and its residents.An umbrella company, AirMedCare oversees more than 200 aircraft in 28 states — including the often used AirEvac — which provides medical evacuations via air when someone is in a life-threatening situation and time is of the essence. Teague said the yearly fee of $66,248 would cover all or most of the cost of the flights requested by Nolan County medical services and 9-1-1 operators for the duration of the contract. Last year, 37 requests were made to airlift residents to trauma centers and emergency rooms. Each flight cost several thousand dollars — sometimes more than $30,000, depending on the length of the flight and the care administered.Precinct Two Commissioner Terry Locklar said an inmate at the Nolan County jail was taken by helicopter to an ER recently. The flight cost the county upwards of $30,000 — nearly half the cost of the yearly plan which covers all citizens.Insured citizens would always be provided with free airlift services, should the city opt for the yearly plan. Uninsured citizens would be charged as if they had Medicaid, which amounts to $4,000 — a fraction of the cost of most airlift services. Anyone, regardless of whether the county signs on, can pay $65-$100 per year for individual medical flight service, depending on which plan is chosen."That's the biggest thing," Teague explained. "It's a costly service. The money would be left in Nolan County. And the county gives back to the residents. It's a 100 percent legitimate deal.""I'm a volunteer fire chief," Teague continued. "That's why I am passionate about this. I have seen people who have had to be flown out and I have seen the big bills that follow."Though no action was taken today, Fambrough said the commission will mull the benefits of subscribing to the service."(The commission) will talk about it," said Fambrough, but he added. "Before we can make a decision, we would have to see where the money is going to come from."The commission did take action on other agenda items, including unanimously voting to increase the cost of filing court documents in civil and criminal matters from $3 to no more than $5. The additional costs will be allocated for providing courthouse security.