GLENMOOR -Is the helicopter ambulance service that operates out of the Columbiana County Airport ceasing operations?
The company says it needed to relocate the lone helicopter to a busier base in Indiana but the facility here officially remains open, although it appears to be no longer staffed.
"As far as I know, no decision has been made about that base," said Julia Heavrin, public relations manager for Air Evac Lifeteam. She said they sometimes move helicopters to busier bases, so there was nothing unusual in this move.
Despite the assurances, Mike Diloreto, chairman of the Columbiana County Airport Authority, is concerned. "I have nothing official at this point, but I've heard all the same things you've heard, that they've pulled out," he told the Morning Journal.
Diloreto was out of town over the weekend. After hearing the rumors he went to the Air Evac office building at the airport but did not find anyone around.
"There was always a 24/7 presence, so it's strange no one is there," he said.
The Missouri-based Air Evac Lifeteam, which provides helicopter ambulance services to rural and semi-rural areas, entered into a five-year lease with the Airport Authority in 2008. This was the company's first expansion into Ohio but it now operates out of several other locations in the state, according to its website.
While the lease expired May 1, it contained two options to renew for an additional five years each. The Airport Authority contacted Air Evac to learn if the company intended to renew the contract but Diloreto said they have yet to hear back. The lease was $300 a month and scheduled to increase by $9 starting this past May, although Air Evac continues to make monthly rent payments at the old rate.
"I'm waiting for an official response but no one has contacted an Airport Authority member to give us the facts," Diloreto said.
Newspaper stories at the time said Air Evac planned to have a helicopter on site around the clock, along with a staff of pilots, nurses, paramedics and mechanics. Base manager Matt Handley was contacted by the Journal over the weekend but directed all questions to Air Evac.
The lease allowed the company to build a hangar, office building and helicopter pad, but Diloreto said that would become the Airport Authority's property should Air Evac officially cease operations.
He is hoping Air Evac intends to continue local operations. "It was such a real asset to have that in the community and I would hate to see it go," Diloreto said.