Local veterans were thanked by Preston Mayor Dan Keller during the Nov. 9 City Council meeting. “Our monument across the street at the courthouse gives you a real reflection, at least it does me, of the number of citizens from our area that served our country in the line of duty, and many of them gave their lives in doing that.”
He also noted the Preston High School Cross Boys Cross Country team’s recent state title, the girls’ team that finished a close second, and the West Side High School Volleyball team’s state title. City attorney Lyle Fuller’s son runs on the PHS Cross Country team and city police officer Scott Royer’s wife, Malinda, coaches the WS volleyball team. Keller’s daughter is Royer’s assistant coach.
He thanked members of the local fire department, ambulance crew and police department who escorted the teams into town.
The city then refunded half of a swale bond to Ryan Harris, and listened to an update on the Franklin County Medical Center.
“We have a very ambitious vision for FCMC. We want to be the absolute preferred provider for all medical services in our area. FCMC is the largest employer in the county and certainly in the city,” said Richard Westerberg, chairman of the FCMC Board of Directors.
Part of the FCMC’s vision is economics, he said. “To the extent that we can capture the medical services that we know are leaving our community and going other places then we will be able to add jobs, payroll, and all those good things to our community,” he said.
“Our facilities have not always been equivalent to our providers. For the last five or six years we’ve been in an aggressive movement to add quality brick and mortar facilities,” he said, listing them:
1- business center and offices and attached clinic — expanded by over 2000 feet at cost of $2 million with a fair amount of help from Preston City and Franklin county
2- the purchase and conversion of a building on state street into a “world class physical therapist center” with the help of Idaho Elks.
3 — construction of a 14,000 square foot surgery center with “all bells and whistles of any surgery center in the area.”
4- hired Lance R. Bryce as a general surgeon. “We know we were losing some general surgery patients from the community — especially those coming in on an emergency basis. Now that Dr. Bryce is here he can service those patients here.”
5- Acquired the chiropractic center on State Street and converted it into an upgrade home health center.
6- Moving ahead with an office facility. FCMC administration currently occupies about 5,000 square feet over at the Willow Valley Clinic “which is woefully inadequate for providers,” said Westerberg. He noted that hospital administrators had plans to meet with an architect to begin designing a 12-14,000 square foot office building that will be adjacent and attached to the existing hospital to the north.
“All this to improve medical services in our area. We will have facilities and practitioners to match anyone around,” he said. Westerberg then noted that COVID — 19 “is a real deal” and has had a significant effect on the facility.
“We have had to make some changes, certainly with personnel. All are getting bone weary. We are not whining — it is in our job description to respond and our staff has worked diligently to be as ready as can be,” he said.
Hospital CEO Darrin Dransfield elaborated on FCMC’s response to COVID-19.
“I could not be more pleased with our response,” he said. FCMC was recently noted as one of the top 100 hospitals in the nation. It has received that award for the last five years and Dransfield attributed that to the vision of the board and quality of employees and providers at FCMC.
“We have continued to perform surgeries successfully and safely, continued to see normal patient levels and service lines,” he said. But he also acknowledged that COVID-19 fatigue “is a real thing in our hospital. We are asking practitioners and other staff members to work sometimes two jobs,” he said. FCMC has had 25 employees out due to COVID-19 over the last five weeks. “Our concern is keeping staff necessary to take care of patients,” he said.
Dransfield said he is working with state resources and other entities to keep providers and patients safe. “This week, we tested 472 people of which 45 people tested positive,” he said. He noted that the hospital administers four different coronavirus test options, three locally and the fourth through IHC (Intermountain Health Centers). Some test results are available within 15 minutes to an hour.
The hospital’s main concern is capacity, he said. Because of the HVAC system its current capacity for COVID patients is three. “We can not exceed that without jeopardizing the health of the providers,” he said. Dransfield said he keeps an eye on Portuneuf Medical Center and tertiary response hospitals to ascertain the level of support available to local patients.
Portneuf has a capacity of 32 patients and was at 28 when Dransfield spoke to the city council. Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center has a capacity of 42 patients, averaging 36 patients. “We need to transfer patients once in a while,” so determining what to do if the facility is no longer able to do that is a concern.
FCMC has three rooms that can be sealed off for the treatment of the pandemic and at the time of the meeting was at capacity. The facility’s HVAC system prevents any other room from being sealed off for that purpose.
“We are making it, but if things got worse that’s our concern. Our plea to the public is to continue to watch and follow South East Idaho Public Health recommendations for infection control measures. Tell families that their decision affects caregivers and caregivers’ decisions affect patients,” he said. Councilman Todd Thomas continued to drive that point home.
Mayor Keller gave a shoutout to front line workers and encouraged keeping communications lines open.
Businesses licenses were approved for door to door sales of Energy Savers Insulation to interested customers.
Scott Palmer received approval for a variance that would require less water shares for his commercial subdivision on the north end of State Street, than is required for residential subdivisions. The city code needs to be updated to differentiate requirements needed between commercial subdivisions and residential subdivisions, because they don’t need the water that residential ones do.
Beer/wine licenses were approved for Bajarangi Sunstop Inc. doing business as Last Chance Store #8 at 193 North State Wine and Bajarangi Muststop Inc. doing businesses as Last Chance Store #9 at 113 North State. Liquor would be consumed off-premises.
The council was excited about a proposal by Preston High School Senior Selyce Burnett who wants to rename the section of 200 South in front of Preston High School, “PHS Drive.”
“I wish I’d thought of it myself,” said Mayor Keller.
Burnett is planning a fund-raiser to help pay for the sign and has already contacted the city’s public works for help to put up the signs and directions on how to get the sign made. She wants the sign to be blue with “PHS Drive” with a “P” at the end.
“I would really like to leave Preston High with this because I’ve developed drive there,” she said.
The council supported the idea unanimously and with enthusiasm.
“I’m shocked it took this long for the idea ... I love it,” said Thomas.
He then told the council that a new sign is in the works for Craner Field, there is still sod that needs to be removed there and the old flag pole and benches have been removed. New are ordered. Plans for a walking path have started and are estimated to cost between $30 and 40,000. Thomas is talking to local service clubs for support in paying for that, hoping that work will begin in the spring.
Councilman Thomas noted that rec basketball will take place and begin in January. Alecia Robertson is the rec board director and registration forms being distributed.