At its February 11 meeting, the Stevensville Town Council approved the loan of a town ambulance for use as a COVID-19 mobile testing site by BVS Inc. Owner Dave Wick of Stevensville says he has been involved with virus testing for nearly 20 years. He has done extensive work with honeybees, but the technology he uses was designed for human protection before it was adapted for honeybees, and has been used on other coronavirus outbreaks in the past. He said the method is rapid and inexpensive, costing $15-$20 per test rather than the $120-$150 for other methods. A saliva sample is taken and tested, with results available in five minutes. Currently, he has to drive the samples to a lab but if he had the mobile unit, he could get the results on the spot.
“It would be much quicker,” he said. “We can make a difference.” He said this method yields virtually no false-positives or false-negatives. “We can eliminate the need for masks and social distancing… We could test the teams at the school” just before games. “If you don’t have the virus, you’re not infectious,” said Wick.
He also said he has met with the county commissioners and they are on board with the concept.
The ambulance that would be used is a “back-up, back-up” vehicle, not currently in use. According to Fire Chief Jeff Motley, the only time it might be called into use would be during some sort of “mass casualty” event. He said that the Town would still always have EMS services available but the ability to use this vehicle for transport would be eliminated. However, he said, “this would be a valuable service to the community.”
In exchange for the loan of the vehicle, the Town staff and officials will receive free COVID-19 testing.
The mayor and fire chief will negotiate the terms of the one-year agreement with an option to renew, including provisions that BVS Inc. pay for all repairs and upgrades to the ambulance and return it in its current condition or better.
In other business:
• The council approved Resolution 484 establishing the written minutes as the official minutes of record for hearings and meetings of the Town Council. According to the mayor, this is not a change from previous practice but rather a clarification since the topic has lately been raised. The mayor noted that they will still record the meetings and keep those recordings as part of the permanent record. He also said that although some letters are not read aloud at the meetings, they are included in the written record of the meeting.
• The council consented to the mayor’s appointment of Steve Kruse as Public Works Director at an annual salary of $56,900. He does not have water and wastewater certifications, but the mayor said that is not required as long as someone on the staff has the necessary certifications (currently there are two certified staff members, with two more in training).
• In his executive report, Mayor Dewey brought up the Governor’s rescinding of the COVID-19 mask mandate. It was pointed out that any meetings at the library will still require masks and social distancing, as per library policy. There was consensus among the council that the similar protocols in place at town hall should also be continued for the time being.
• A letter from 15 downtown businesses was read into the record, requesting that the council deny the commercial zone portion of the Burnt Fork Estates subdivision application. “…We’re concerned because the proposal does not conform to the goals of the Stevensville Growth Policy which says that the Town will ‘encourage reuse and infill in existing commercial areas’ and ‘provide for the continued success of downtown’,” states the letter. “We’re also concerned that the business community has not had a chance to weigh in on this proposal… Please do not approve this commercial development which would be totally disconnected from the town’s existing commercial area.” Another letter on the same topic from Joan Prather and Victoria Howell was not read aloud but would be added to the written record, according to Mayor Dewey.
• The search for a new police chief has been narrowed down to four candidates. A citizen panel will hold a hearing on February 24 to hear from the candidates, with the public also invited to participate.
• The first public hearing on the Burnt Fork Estates subdivision application will be held in person on Thursday, March 4 at 6:30 p.m. at the LDS Church. A second hearing will be held virtually on Monday, March 8 at 6:30 p.m. A public hearing on the utility rate change required to fund the utility assistance program will also be held at the same time and same venue on both days.
Victoria Howell can be contacted at: [email protected] or (406) 207-8793.