Community members toured the new LifeFlight Eagle ambulance helicopter base at Chillicothe Municipal Airport on Saturday.
Community members toured the new LifeFlight Eagle ambulance helicopter base at Chillicothe Municipal Airport on Saturday. Organization representatives as well as city of Chillicothe officials were on hand and offered remarks during a brief program that was followed by a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a free lunch of hamburgers and hot dogs. The open house was a come-and-go event and members of the public could get a closeup view an air ambulance, visit with LifeFlight Eagle team members and learn more about the organization. A bounce house and other inflatable recreation units were set up for youngsters’ enjoyment. Individuals could also put on flight suits and have their pictures taken by the helicopter. Saturday’s open house program opened with Matt Daugherty, director of business development for LifeFlight Eagle, welcoming those in attendance. Chillicothe Firefighter Chaplain Bill Gutshall gave the invocation. Chillicothe Mayor Chuck Haney introduced City Council members, past and present, who were in attendance, as well as the past city administrator, Ike Holland, and current city administrator, Darin Chappell. “This is a great facility and this will be a great addition to our community,” Haney said. “Crews will be here 24-7, and an ambulance will be available quickly throughout the entire area. Haney said that the city has enjoyed a great working relationship with LifeFlight Eagle throughout the process. Chillicothe Fire Chief Darrell Wright agreed. “We’re very proud of this facility,” he said. “We’re glad that it is here and we are glad to have the great association with LifeFlight Eagle.” Administrator Chappell welcomed LifeFlight to the community. “We are very thankful in the community and at City Hall to have this partnership with LifeFlight Eagle and look forward to the opportunity to work together when you need to provide services to those individuals in our community, and look forward to being able to have the community enhanced,” Chappell said. Chappell noted the importance of community. “It is all of us coming together so that as individuals we begin to have a function of togetherness that is greater than the sum of our parts,” he said. “Every time something new comes to a community like this, it enhances life for each and everyone of us and the security that is represented in this building.” He said the city is proud of the facility. “This building is something we are very, very proud of and something we are thankful for,” Chappell said. “We look forward to many years with anticipation for the good work that can be done and the lives that will be affected, both saved and also the families that are benefitted by the activities that are going to take place in this building.” Chillicothe Fire Chief Darrell Wright reflected on the decision that was made for LifeFlight to come to Chillicothe. “Making the decision to come here and evaluating the situation they had and doing the right thing for the whole region was important and this started many months ago,” Wright said. He noted that Chillicothe lost the bid for the LifeFlight base to the city of Trenton about 10 years ago. He said that LifeFlight, although located in Trenton, was a part of the region and that although the base is moving to Chillicothe, it will still be supported by the region. Roxanne Shanks, CEO of LifeFlight Eagle, also made remarks during the program. “We are excited about being in your community and we are anxious to get moved in,” she said. “Thank you. Thank you to the city and entire community.” As a token of appreciation to the city and to Fire Chief Wright, Shanks presented Haney and Wright with plaques of recognition, and also gave Wright a hand-carved, hand-painted wooden aircraft in the likeness of LifeFlight Eagle. “This will allow us to provide critical care transport for years to come,” she said. “This is a wonderful facility and we appreciate everything that you have done for us.” She also recognized several sponsors, including: Lowe’s, Hy-Vee, Citizens Bank, Woody’s, Clark’s, and Wal-Mart. LifeFlight Eagle broke ground for the Chillicothe base in December and plans to start operating out of the new station within the next 10 days. The overall project cost is around $1.3 million. LifeFlight Eagle will pay $500,000 of the cost through a long-term lease agreement with the city of Chillicothe. The organization signed a 15-year lease with the city and has options for multiple five-year extensions. Burman Construction, of Ozark, Mo., is the general contractor on the project. The LifeFlight Eagle station will be operational year-round, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. LifeFlight Eagle has had a base in Trenton since 2005, but began looking for alternate base locations after a 2014 flood forced them out of their base for nearly three months. Jeff Willhite, LifeFlight Eagle’s vice president of program operations, said during the groundbreaking ceremony that LifeFlight expects to be able to respond to more requests for emergency transport in the region because they would not suffer the same localized fog issues in Chillicothe that they did in Trenton, and that it would provide the needed weather reporting information to quickly determine suitability for flight. The base includes a hangar for LifeFlight Eagle’s specially-equipped helicopter, as well as crew quarters, where a pilot, flight nurse and flight paramedic are on duty 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The facility has five bedrooms, a kitchen and living area as well as work areas for the flight nurse, flight paramedic and pilot. Additionally, there will be a fitness area in the loft with exercise equipment.