AirEvac Lifeteam is pulling up stakes and moving its base out of St. Clair and relocating it in Sullivan.
Public Relations Manager Julie Heavrin confirmed the decision to The Missourian on Monday.
“We really felt like we have no choice,” she said. “With St. Clair’s plans to close the airport and build retail there, we felt we had to find another suitable location.”
In April, the emergency air ambulance service first considered the move. Representatives appeared before Sullivan officials and received a conditional use permit to construct a helipad and modular shelter on a piece of property near Missouri Baptist Hospital.
“We’ve received all our permits and are proceeding,” Heavrin said. “The Sullivan community has been very welcoming to us.”
Heavrin said if all goes well, the move should come sometime around the end of the year. She said work has started at the Sullivan location.
AirEvac EMS Inc. of O’Fallon was granted the CUP “to operate an air ambulance business from the property located at 673 Sappington Bridge Road.”
Sullivan City Administrator J.T. Hardy said the property is located next to the helipad at Missouri Baptist Hospital. That property already was zoned commercial.
The land is on the east side of Highway D from Missouri Baptist in Crawford County. Missouri Baptist’s helipad is just west of Highway D and northeast of the hospital itself.
Sullivan already has an air ambulance service, ARCH Air Medical Services, located at its regional airport. The two will operate independently of each other.
AirEvac has maintained a base in St. Clair since 2005, and a five-year lease was renewed in 2010. It pays a $300-per-month rental fee for use of hangar space at the St. Clair Regional Airport.
“Because St. Clair’s situation is up in the air, our situation is up in the air there, too,” Heavrin said earlier this year.
Heavrin emphasized that local AirEvac memberships and services still will be honored.
“We still will serve the area just as we are now,” she said. “We still will have the same coverage. We will just be operating out of Sullivan.”
St. Clair has been trying to close its regional airport located on the north side of town for years, and, if successful, use the land for retail development. Closure must be granted by the Federal Aviation Administration because the city obtained federal grants, as late as 2006, to make improvements at the facility.
In airport closure discussions, St. Clair officials always have maintained that a spot would be found for AirEvac in the city no matter what the FAA rules.
St. Clair’s administration still is waiting for a vote to be taken on an amendment attached to the latest U.S. transportation bill that allows for closure of the airport, but the future of the amendment remains unknown after no action was taken on it before Congress broke for its summer recess in August.
Sens. Roy Blunt and Claire McCaskill cosponsored Amendment 1801, “to release the city of St. Clair, Mo., from all restrictions, conditions and limitations on the use, encumbrance, conveyance and closure of the St. Clair Regional Airport.”
Blunt Press Secretary Genny Carter told The Missourian at that time that the amendment was offered, but “never made pending and never voted on before the THUD (Transportation, Housing and Urban Development) bill had cloture filed.”
The amendment states that the United States will act through the administrator of the FAA to allow closure “as described in the most recent airport layout plan approved by the FAA.” It also states conditions to allow closure.
Before breaking for summer recess, neither the Senate nor the House could assemble sufficient support to even bring the THUD appropriations bill to a final vote. In the Senate, supporters failed to gain 60 votes to bring debate on the bill to a close. In the House, leadership pulled the bill from the floor.
Some experts said the failure of the THUD bill made it all but certain Congress won’t see the transportation funding bill again until it is rolled into a larger continuing resolution at the start of the new federal fiscal year on Oct. 1.
City officials have been going back and forth with FAA and Missouri Department of Transportation officials on the closure process.