Angel Flight East Kootenay is getting $500,000 from the Regional District of East Kootenay over the next five years, supporting their volunteer effort to fly patients to their distant medical appointments for free.
As part of the RDEK’s budget deliberations, a motion was made to support Angel Flight East Kootenay with $100,000 every year for five years. At the time, the motion narrowly passed 8-7 in their draft budget. However, when the budget came back for final approval, an amended motion was unanimously supported by the RDEK Board of Directors.
“It’s almost unbelievable. We’re still slightly stunned, it’s just fantastic,” said Brent Bidston, President of Angel Flight East Kootenay. “For the Council of the whole East Kootenays to endorse our efforts in this way and support this is great, I mean, it feels great to me that what we’re doing is recognized as being that valuable.”
“Our funding has been fantastic – the backing of the community has been terrific throughout and we would have been able to continue our program as it is, but the problem we were having was reliability,” Bidston explained to MyEastKootenayNow.com. “This big injection of money from the RDEK means we can buy a much more reliable aircraft that fly in almost any weather.”
Bidston said it can take weeks or months for people’s appointments to come through, and it’s extremely disruptive if they have to cancel because of the weather, affecting not only the patient but the hospitals as well.
Angel Flight East Kootenay mostly transports patients to Kelowna for their appointments but has recently made trips to Trail and Penticton as well, providing the service to all area residents in need.
The money will be used to purchase a new plane, specifically for use by Angel Flight East Kootenay. Currently, the registered charity either uses the volunteer pilots’ personally owned airplanes or they rent the plane from the Air Search and Rescue Unit to complete their flights. Bidston said the rental is currently their main airplane, but the money now gives them the ability to purchase their own, while still using the rental to address capacity and demand for the service.
Bidston said they will leverage the money to get the new plane as soon as possible, using the annual $100,000 to pay off the plane’s loan over the course of the five years. The hope is that they will also have money each year to help cover any additional expenses.
“This aircraft will add more costs and we would like to cover those extra costs from this money as well,” Bidston told MyEastKootenayNow.com. “It’s primarily the purchase and then the ongoing increased insurance and maintenance cost.”
The RDEK approved the funding in their 2021 budget, however, it is contingent on a few conditions:
- That a Five-Year fully costed Business Plan be developed;
- That the society’s bylaws be reviewed by RDEK staff with particular attention to the dissolution, financial & governance bylaws and amended to address concerns;
- That a financial audit be completed each year and not be waived by the membership at an Annual General Meeting of the society;
- That the governance board be representative of the Regional District of East Kootenay sub-regions and that no one region holds the balance of power;
- That a Five-Year Asset Management and Maintenance Plan be approved by the RDEK for assets of the society and acquisition of additional assets be added upon receipt of the newly acquired asset(s); and
- That the above conditions are reviewed annually prior to disbursement of funds
Bidston said Angel Flight East Kootenay will work with the conditions so they can access the funding, keeping their volunteer-operated service up and running for residents across the region.
“A couple of them are a little bit problematic to us but we would expect it. We expect oversight on any money we have – any grants.”