STARS looks to city for more funding

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STARS (Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service) is looking to the City of Grande Prairie for a financial shot in the arm.

In 2019 the city changed how it provided funds for the service, including it in Community Grants, which resulted in a 30 per cent reduction in financial support for STARS’ operations.

This year the city’s support for the air service dropped by one-third during a time when the request for STARS services rose as it assisted with the COVID-19 pandemic in the community, in addition to its regular demands.

Glenda Farnden, major gift manager for STARS, provided council with an update on the service’s COVID-19 and related missions, its ongoing successes in the middle of the pandemic, statistics pertaining to this area, an update on the campaign status to update STARS’ fleet and the upcoming addition of a new helicopter for the Grande Prairie base.

Farnden, explained there is a need for reliable, operational funding. She requested council consider viewing and supporting STARS as an essential service for residents of the city and area by providing funding for both operational and capital portions of STARS budget.

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“STARS came with two asks tonight,” Mayor Jackie Clayton said following Monday’s meeting. “One for operational funding for the Grande Prairie base and one for capital fleet funding. Both the discussion of where that could be funded from and if it is something that council wants to consider will come at an upcoming standing committee.

“The operational funding model will go through the council committee as a whole when we talk about community group funding, however, council tonight was looking for further information and to see if there was an opportunity to discuss capital fleet funding.”

Councillor Wade Pilat moved the issue be brought before the appropriate standing committee to be discussed further in how funding should be handled and asked administration to bring forward some possible avenues for funding,

“I do think this is a good conversation because there is a part of me that wonders maybe this shouldn’t be part of community group funding,” Pilat said. “Maybe this should be coming out of Protective Services funding if we think that is where it belongs, but I just want to have the conversation.”

Councillors Dylan Bressey and Eunice Friesen expressed some concerns about funding for STARS when it did not provide service within the municipality.

“We recognize we serve the entire northern region,” Farnden said. “Emergencies do not always happen close to home. We travel for work and recreation.”

Councillor Chris Thiessen supported Pilat’s motion.

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“We helped to bring it in and helped foster it and help create the outcomes for people’s lives that STARS impacts by being available to everybody in the region,” Thiessen said. “But there are lots of workers who have to work out there (away from the city limits) that live in the city of Grande Prairie.

“STARS impacts the lives of Grande Prairie residents as much as they do the county residents. These are people who are out there working, recreating and other stuff — they maybe residents of Grande Prairie or the county or the MD (of Greenview) but the period is for me is that (STARS) is saving lives and our residents lives in the industries and the areas they like to recreate in.”

Council approved Pilat’s motion 6-2.

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