After months of lobbying, Montgomery County could get a Medivac helicopter unit as early as next January as part of a multimillion-dollar expansion of the popular state police aviation program, according to state and local officials.

The officials said the helicopter unit is expected to be stationed in the northeastern section of the county at Burtonsville, where it could serve Montgomery, Prince George's and Howard counties. It would become the eighth such state police station, including nearby units in Frederick and in Prince George's at Andrews Air Force Base.

Plans by state police and Montgomery fire rescue officials call for constructing a helicopter pad, hangar, crew quarters and fuel station to house a helicopter and a 12-person station at Old Columbia Pike and realigned Briggs Chaney Road. The five-acre site also will contain a new fire station that will replace the aging Spencerville Road fire house, currently the home of the Burtonsville Volunteer Fire Department, said Ramon Granados, director of fire and rescue services for Montgomery County.

The state police-run helicopter, which also would be used for search and rescue missions and law enforcement operations, would start operating in January, even though Montgomery County, which is spending $400,000 to provide facilities for the new Medivac station, does not expect the Burtonsville site to be finished by then. Granados said the county is looking for temporary quarters for the Medivac unit.

Maj. Warner Sumpter, commander of the Maryland state police aviation division, said funding for the new station would come from the $31 million the General Assembly appropriated last year to expand the state's emergency Medivac system. Under that plan, money from an increase in car registration fees was used to create the Maryland Emergency Medical Services Fund.

The plans on how the money would be spent were announced in Gov. William Donald Schaefer's budget last month. Besides the expansion into Montgomery, the state intends to use $13 million this year to buy six twin-engine helicopters during the next 18 months with an option to purchase six more.

Ronald Moser, an assistant secretary in the Maryland Department of Transportation and director of the helicopter procurement project, said the state put out a call for bids Feb. 9 and expects to sign a contract by the end of June. Three of the six helicopters would arrive 120 days later, with another delivered every three months after that.

Montgomery will not receive any of the new helicopters, which will be bigger and will have more sophisticated equipment than the Bell Jet Ranger helicopters now used by state police. The new helicopters will be able to carry two patients and two flight attendants; in contrast, the single-engine Bell Jet can carry only one each.

Montgomery officials have been pushing for two years to get a Medivac unit for the county, which last year had 182 calls for a Medivac unit, up from 153 in 1986.

Currently, Montgomery police and rescue workers rely on nearby state Medivac helicopters. Capt. Edward Bickham of Montgomery's Fire and Rescue Service said that a helicopter from Frederick takes an average of 19 minutes to arrive at an accident in Montgomery and one from Andrews takes 22 minutes.

Granados said the county also has been using the U.S. Park Police and Fairfax County police helicopters, which take an average of 14 minutes to respond.

The new Burtonsville unit would take far less time to get to an accident, Granados said. "Anyone can see that if we're waiting for service to come from Frederick or Andrews, it will take more time than if we have a facility in Burtonsville," Granados said.

Del. Peter Franchot (D-Montgomery) said, "We wanted {the new Medivac unit} because lives would be saved," noting that state legislators and County Executive Sidney Kramer had to lobby the governor for the Burtonsville section. "The Montgomery County section was an add-on. It was not there a year ago," he said.

Granados said there have been times when the state and other area police department helicopters have been unavailable, and the county has had to call Washington Hospital Center's MedStar unit. "But that costs the patients," he said. In contrast, state Medivac helicopters are free.

But the plans to add a Burtonsville Medivac station have not stifled calls from residents' groups to create a county police helicopter division.

Dan Mayer, a county police officer and an adviser to Citizens in Support of a Public Safety Helicopter for Montgomery County, said that a county unit could run emergency calls when the state police helicopter is unavailable and that county police also could use its own helicopter to help direct traffic for three or four hours a day.