The county legislature budget vote is only a week away and legislators say the Sheriff’s Department helicopter – Air 1 – will not fit the bill.
Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh, however, is still pushing for funding to keep the helicopter flying.
The possibility of Air 1 being used for routine checks of any site is slim without the funding in the county budget, but Walsh believes areas such as the National Grid substations could use the extra patrol.
“Air 1 will be doing additional checks on National Grid properties as frequently as possible,” Walsh said.
Walsh says copper thefts at National Grid’s high voltage sites pose a serious enough danger that air patrol will be needed to secure them.
“We’re going to step up our observations as part of our Homeland Security checks because National Grid facilities are an important part of Homeland Security concerns – keeping the infrastructure solid,” said Walsh.
The County legislature has consistently said there is no room for the helicopter funding in the budget, and the chairman says they are choosing to concentrate on reducing property taxes rather than pay for Air 1.
“I think the helicopter program is outdated. He's working off an old mission statement and he's behind the eight ball with it when it comes to keeping up with the aviation industry, so I don't think we need it anymore,” said Jim Rhinehart, the County Legislature Chair.
As of right now, the budget proposal has no taxpayer money going toward Air 1. The county will still support the helicopter if the Sheriff’s Office is able to raise enough money through donations and it gets FAA approval for medical transportation.
The next Air 1 fundraiser will be at a comedy club on Friday, Oct. 14.