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Hawaii Mayor Plans to Close Island Helicopter

WAILUKU – Forced to make difficult budget decisions due to a dramatic drop in tax revenue collections, Mayor Charmaine Tavares has proposed to eliminate Maui County’s only helicopter ambulance service, her staff said.

But as soon as the suggestion was made during last week’s County Council Budget and Finance Committee hearings, it was met with strong opposition by council members and residents.

Transportation Department Director Don Medeiros said use of the helicopter had dropped by about 50 percent since a second fixed-wing airplane medical transport company began servicing the county’s isles a few years ago. The helicopter doesn’t handle as many transports between Maui County and Oahu hospitals as it used to and instead focuses more on trauma and rescue operations, Medeiros said.

The county is facing a $56 million budget gap for services and programs in fiscal year 2011, which could be increased by another $17.5 million if the Legislature decides to take the county’s share of the transient accommodations tax, or hotel tax, as the state battles its own budget woes.

Read More, Mayor moves to scrap air ambulance