Emergency coordinator distressed by OPP helicopter move

KAGAWONG—While he is also concerned with the costs involved with the province’s move of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) search and rescue helicopter from Greater Sudbury Airport to OPP headquarters in Orillia, a local amateur radio emergency system representative says the biggest problem is still the time it takes to get the necessary personnel to a search and rescue emergency site.

“In response to France Gelinas’ recent report in the Sudbury Star regarding the actual cost of operating the OPP search and rescue helicopter, I’m sure that the figures released by the OPP are accurate, they do keep good records. However, I will also be looking for clarification to ascertain if the numbers are accurate,” said Jim McLean, ARES district emergency coordinator.

Mr. McLean explained, “the biggest concern to responders participating in search and rescue work is not the cost, but the time it takes to get the necessary personnel on station. The added 1.3 hours of flying time from Orillia, as well as the refueling factor, greatly increases the odds against a successful search mission for all agencies involved.”

Mr. McLean was referring to the article in the November 16, 2016 edition of the Sudbury Star in which Nickel Belt NDP MPP France Gelinas explains that, while the OPP move of the helicopter was intended to save money, it is actually costing thousands of dollars more and putting the lives of Northerners at risk. It had been estimated that this relocation in May 2015 was expected to save $254,000 a year. However, it was reported to the Star by Ms. Gelinas that the OPP has instead spent $975,000 extra just to fly chopper from Orillia to Sudbury during the period of May 2015 to early November of this year, based on 250 trips the helicopter made, with a 2.6 hour return time, at a cost of $1,500 per hour.

“Being from the North, we are aware that any numbers for the cost of anything done by the government will be somewhat higher than estimated by a substantial factor,” said Mr. McLean. “Our only hope is that someone in the know will eventually realize this error in judgment and move these services to where they are needed the most.”