Hammonton will still make a profit on a helicopter hangar purchased for $1.2 million last year despite Virtua ending its long working relationship with New Jersey State Police.

Mayor Steve DiDonato on Monday said that despite the termination of the partnership, State Police will sign a lease with the township to keep the hangar, which is located at the Hammonton Municipal Airport.

“I knew that [State Police and Virtua] had a three-year deal and that this was always a possibility,” he said. “Hopefully they identify a new partner soon.”

In 2015, the township decided to buy a hangar that houses the State Police’s SouthStar helicopter from a private developer after the developer filed a wage complaint with the state. The argument for buying the hangar by township officials was that the rent paid to house the helicopter would make up for the $1.2 million. After that was recouped, officials said that the township could make money with rent paid to house the helicopter.

But that came into question when Virtua ended the partnership.

DiDonato said that the helicopter is still in the hangar, but that state police wouldn’t fly it until a new partner is identified. Until then, Hammonton will be covered by a medical helicopter in Millville.

Virtua ended the partnership this month because of competition from private operators. In 2006, the state Department of Health started using other air-ambulance services which caused a decline in Virtua’s services.

“We determined that the significant decline in SouthSTAR’s flight volume makes the program no longer sustainable,” Virtua said in a statement last week.

By this week, SouthStar’s website had been changed to a picture of the sun setting behind the helicopter with a statement underneath.

The crew and administration of the Virtua SouthSTAR program would like to sincerely thank the EMS, police and fire agencies that served with us and continue to serve South Jersey each and every day,” the statement said. “We cannot fully express our appreciation of your dedication and enduring support over the past 28 years.”

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