MedEvac pad urged for airfield Council chief wants county to buy Tipton Army field on closure list

August 26, 1993|By Peter Hermann and John Rivera | Peter Hermann and John Rivera,Staff Writers

Anne Arundel County not only should acquire Tipton Army Airfield, but should lobby state police to put a MedEvac helicopter pad on the site, the chairman of the County Council says.

"To locate the MedEvac helicopter at Tipton would be a wise move on all parts," said David G. Boschert, D-Crownsville. "This is something I think would be for the benefit of all. I think it could be justified very easily."

The helicopter would be used to transport people in need of immediate medical attention to area hospitals.

The two closest MedEvac barracks that serve Anne Arundel County are in Forestville, near Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George's County, and at Martin State Airport in eastern Baltimore County.

The council chairman is just one of many people to weigh in with a Tipton opinion in recent months. Last week, the West Anne Arundel County Chamber of Commerce issued a statement urging the county to start studying the cost-effectiveness of running an airport.

The airfield's 440 acres were included in the Army's base closure and realignment plan four years ago. The Army has until 1995 to decide what to do with the airfield.

Mr. Boschert said Anne Arundel needs a MedEvac pad because of increased traffic on county roadways. He cited the completion of Interstate 97 from the Baltimore Beltway to Route 50, the recent opening of Route 32 and improvements to Route 100.

First Sgt. Mark B. Gabriele, a spokesman for the state police aviation division, said a new base would cost $5.1 million for a new helicopter and $720,000 for a 12-person crew. Moving a base from one place to another would be "a very big deal," because they are strategically located, he said.

He said no plans are being discussed to place a MedEvac pad in Anne Arundel County.

Tipton's future has been in limbo since it was put on the closure list. County Executive Robert R. Neall has delayed using a $175,000 grant to study taking over Tipton until he receives assurances from the Army that it wants to get rid of the land. Questions were raised last year when the top-secret National Security Agency objected to the transfer, citing security concerns.

But a Defense Department memo rejected that argument and said officials would proceed with plans to divest itself of the property.

The property would be put up for sale only after other federal VTC agencies have been given a chance to buy it. That process is continuing.

The chamber and a local pilots group are concerned that if the county waits too long, there will not be enough time to study the proposal once the land is offered to local governments.

But county officials said they still have not heard from the Pentagon. "Quite frankly, we think we should have something a little more concrete in hand before we proceed with the study," said Louise Hayman, a spokeswoman for Mr. Neall.

All that county officials have received to date is a copy of a letter from the Department of Defense to Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes of Maryland indicating the federal government's interest in selling the airfield, she said.

Mr. Boschert said that if the county does acquire the airport, it should consider leasing it to a private firm, but should maintain control to assure the safety of nearby residents.

The councilman, a Marine Corps reservist, said he would also like the county to maintain a commitment to Air Force Reserve and Maryland National Guard units located at the airport.

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