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Brunswick Planning Board OKs hospital helipad

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Brunswick Planning Board OKs hospital helipad


Neighbors say they won't fight decision

BRUNSWICK — Parkview Adventist Medical Center's three-year quest to build a helipad reached its conclusion Wednesday when the Planning Board unanimously approved the proposal.
The 3-0 decision allows the hospital to construct a 2,420-square-foot emergency helicopter pad to be used by LifeFlight of Maine, and ends Parkview's dispute with neighbors who opposed the project – at least for now.
In December, some neighbors contemplated launching a petition drive against the helipad, a process that could have caused delays and threatened grant funding for the $50,000 project.
But despite expressing disappointment with the Planning Board's decision, it appears the neighbors have abandoned the petition effort.
Liz Armstrong, whose mother lives in the adjacent Meadowbrook neighborhood, said Wednesday that neighbors were convinced Parkview could have have put the helipad in an area that would have been acceptable to all stakeholders.
"(Parkview) stubbornly refused to choose a location that would have accommodated the neighbors' concerns," Armstrong said, referring to the hospital's contention that the pad needed to be close to the emergency room, and by extension, closer to neighbors.
"Everybody could have gotten a win out of it," Armstrong said.
Opponents of the helipad spoke out on Tuesday. However, their numbers were dwarfed by more than 70 Parkview supporters. Several hospital representatives hovered near the entrance to the meeting area and distributed Parkview stickers.
Many supporters dismissed neighbors concerns about noise and putting a helipad in a densely populated area, arguing that saving lives trumped the occasional disturbance.
"We live in the 21st century," Roland Bouchard of Hennessey Avenue said. "We've come a long way toward making life more pleasurable ... and to live little longer. It takes a little noise to do that."
"I hear big trucks, cars and school buses," Bouchard added. "And sometimes they wake me up from a nice little nap."
The board also heard from Jay Neil, an anesthesiologist at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and a former Parkview employee. Neil said LifeFlight may have kept one of his patients from going into a coma.
While those arguments highlighted the meeting, the board had little room to maneuver. According to Planning and Development Director Anna Breinich, if not for concerns over neighborhood impact,  the helipad could have been approved with only staff review.
The proposed helipad is a permitted use in the medical overlay zone. In addition, Federal Aviation Administration laws prevent the town from imposing local noise restrictions.
Although Mid Coast Medical Center, just a few miles away, also has a helipad, board Chairman Charlie Frizzle said his colleagues couldn't assess the need for another one.
"I don't think either the town or this board would want to substitute its medical judgement with that of the medical experts," Frizzle said.
Just three board members voted on the plan. Vice Chairwoman Margaret Wilson recused herself from the meeting because of a conflict. Members Jeffrey Peters and Dana Totman were absent.
Although Frizzle is a member of the Mid Coast Hospital board of directors, Parkview did not ask him to recuse himself from the discussion. 
Parkview representatives estimated that LifeFlight would be used between 12 and 22 times a year. They said about 15 percent of those flights would occur at night.
LifeFlight representatives added that the majority of flights would transport patients from Parkview to other hospitals. In addition, LifeFlight use requires a doctor's authorization.
The helicopter will not be housed or refueled at Parkview. It'll be based at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.

Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or smistler@theforecaster.net

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Welcome to the neighborhood
Photo:
Connor Turcotte, 3, of Lisbon waves to LifeFlight of Maine as it takes off from the helipad at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston in September of 2008. The same LifeFlight helicopter could soon touch down in Brunswick thanks to Tuesday's Planning Board vote approving a new a helipad at Parkview Adventist Medical Center. (Russ Dillingham, Sun Journal, photo)