The Wilkes County commissioners unanimously approved two agreements with Wake Forest Baptist Health related to emergency care Tuesday night.

One continues use of a building as Wilkes Emergency Medical Services’ main base and the other will result in at least one Wake AirCare helicopter being stationed at the Wilkes County Airport.

The commissioners approved a “memorandum and consent to hangar lease” allowing Wake AirCare LLC to lease a hangar at the Wilkes County Airport from its owner, Meyer Wilkes Property LLC. County government owns the 47,750 square feet of ground space beneath the hangar and leases it to Meyer.

Wake AirCare LLC is an entity of Wake Forest Baptist Health. Meyer Wilkes Property is owned by Chris Meyer, who formerly operated MX Aircraft in the hangar. Meyer and a Wake AirCare representative have signed the lease.

Wake AirCare is leasing the hangar for an initial three-year term that begins Nov. 15. The lease payment is $3,000 per month, plus $600 per month for utilities.

The lease is automatically renewed annually after three years, but Meyer can terminate at any time with written notice six months in advance and Wake AirCare can terminate at any time with written notice three months in advance.

County Attorney Tony Triplett said that in a Wilkes County Airport Board meeting earlier this year, AirCare representatives presented a proposal for relocating the AirCare base now at the Elkin Airport to the Wilkes County Airport. AirCare has a twin-engine Airbus H135 helicopter at the Elkin Airport.

Triplett said that according to AirCare officials, the Wilkes Airport would be “one of their bases, if not their main base. They would have one if not several helicopters here, fulltime personnel and a maintenance facility.”

Triplett said changes he recommended in the lease to help protect the county’s interests are in the final version approved by Wake AirCare and Meyer. He said Wilkes Airport Board also approved it last week.

County Commissioner Gary Blevins said his understanding was that AirCare staff would at times be housed in the hangar.

He said AirCare’s presence at the airport would increase aviation fuel sales and should result in faster access to AirCare service in Wilkes.

There also are AirCare helicopters based at the Davidson County Airport and in Henry County, Va. AirCare treats adult and pediatric patients with a variety of conditions, including trauma, cardiac, stroke and burns.

AirCare responds to calls from first responders and hospitals 24/7. An AirCare crew includes a pilot, flight nurse and paramedic. The aircraft are equipped with sophisticated life support and patient care equipment.

EMS building lease

The commissioners also approved an agreement under which county government will sublease an 8,618-square-foot building adjacent to Wilkes Medical Center for three years for $75,000 annually ($6,250 per month) from Wake Forest Baptist.

The lease is automatically renewed annually for up to 10 years after the initial three years, but both county government and Wake Forest Baptist can end the lease with written notice 12 months in advance during the 10 years.

Triplett said the county has leased the building for 34 years rent-free under a 1985 bond agreement for renovating the local hospital that ended Aug. 1.

He said it seems reasonable for the county to pay rent now and added that the lease payment amount and short lease term are also reasonable.

He said the sublease must go to the North Wilkesboro commissioners for approval because the town owns Wilkes Medical Center and leases it to Wake Forest Baptist and also because the town was part of the 1985 bond agreement. He said it could be acted on at the town board’s Sept. 3 meeting.

Triplett said Wake Forest Baptist officials agreed to each of several requests from the county, including an annual cap of $75,000 for the first three years.

After that, rent would increase by 2% annually for the first two one-year terms. If the county continued subleasing the building after that, a new appraisal would be conducted to determine the annual lease payments.

Triplett said Wake Forest Baptist is responsible for all roof, exterior wall, structural member, foundation, plumbing, electrical and HVAC maintenance and the county is responsible for the rest of maintenance.

Keith Elmore, chairman of the county commissioners, said the sublease agreement is essentially the same agreement that Commissioner Gary Blevins worked out with Gene Faile when Faile was the hospital’s top administrator. This was before Wake Forest Baptist leased the hospital.

Wake Forest Baptist “has really been good to work with on this,” said Elmore.

Blevins also said Wake Forest Baptist has been very cooperative, but added, “Long term, the county is going to need to invest in a capital project and build a comprehensive emergency management facility that combines all of our different services into one building.”

He said fact-finding is needed to determine what to build “and then we’ll see how finances are.” Blevins made the motion to approve the sublease of the current EMS facility.

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