CHAPEL HILL -- Town water service customers this month may start making installment payments to their Air Evac helicopter ambulance service subscriptions by adding $5 to their monthly utility bills.
The Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously voted in December to endorse the arrangement and permit collection of helicopter ambulance service fees on the town's monthly billing system. Four customers have signed up for the installment plan.
Annual family memberships to the Air Evac helicopter ambulance service cost $60, so the addition of a $5 monthly payment to the town's utility covers three or more people in a household, according to Town Administrator Mike Hatten.
But, there's an additional benefit for the town, he said. Chapel Hill keeps 50 cents of each monthly payment for Air Evac memberships. The 50 cents from the $5 goes to the city equipment fund for first responders.
Lump sum payments of $50 are required for a year's membership for one person, unless they're a town utility customer who prefers the monthly billing system. The fee for a two-person membership is $55.
"The opportunity has already begun," Hatten said. "It just started this month. We presently have four people who took advantage of it and today is the second of February."
Those four are one alderman, one senior citizen and two town residents.
"We're hoping that the number increases," the town administrator said. "It was December when we passed it and that's when we started working with David Copeland."
Copeland is the membership sales manager for Air Evac.
Air Evac's "medical care to rural areas such as Chapel Hill could be the difference in a medical emergency," Copeland said.
Air Evac provides service to anyone, but membership offers benefits, Copeland said. If flown by Air Evac Lifeteam for life- or limb-threatening medical emergencies, members do not have to pay for the flight. In addition, Air Evac Lifeteam membership is valid throughout the 14-state Air Evac Lifeteam service area, so members are covered while traveling across its service area.
Air Evac is the largest independently owned air ambulance service in the country, he said. It's a member of the AirMedCare Network that's supported by 135 individual emergency air ambulance aircraft.