Broward Sheriff's Office Cleared for Purchase of Fourth Helicopter for a Cool $6.5 Million

The Broward Commission gave the OK yesterday for $6,505,593 to come out of the Law Enforcement Trust Fund for the purchase of a brand new helicopter for the Broward Sheriff's Office.

The BSO already has three other helicopters -- the most recent one purchased in March 2010 -- but the sheriff's office apparently needs a brand new one, because the three other helicopters are having "increasing maintenance issues."

There was a pair of dissenting votes from commissioners yesterday, but Sheriff Al Lamberti and crew still get what the local weathermen would likely refer to as a "whirlybird."

Lamberti actually showed up at yesterday's meeting just in case, and despite getting a couple of questions from commissioners about the purchase, the commission deciding how the BSO uses the Law Enforcement Trust Fund -- which is funded by liens and forfeited property in criminal procedures -- is more of a formality.

For Lamberti's thoughts on the matter, we strongly recommend you fast-forward to the 1:48 mark in Local 10's broadcast yesterday, which can be found here.

The new helicopter, which is supposed to be ready to go by fall, will be used for law enforcement and emergency medical purposes -- just like the BSO's other three helicopters.

Letters and memos attached to the commission agenda explain how the other three helicopters are just inadequate because of all the maintenance they need.

The one bought used in March 2010 cost about $2.5 million, but apparently the BSO needs a new one this time -- hence the $6.5 million price tag.

"Purchasing another used helicopter is not the best route to go for the acquisition of an additional helicopter," Bureau of Grants Management director Michael Somberg wrote to the county budget director. "Finding another helicopter with low flight hours as a result of an estate sale is not an option at this time and a new helicopter will allow BSO to have it built to our specifications and it will have a two-year warranty which will significantly reduce overall expenses for its operation."

The other three are having "increasing maintenance issues" -- both scheduled and unscheduled -- and only one of the three helicopters has been working about 67 percent of the time.

Also, for the three current helicopters, the BSO generally keeps two pilots on per shift.

The letter from Somberg explains that they're going to increase helicopter usage at the sheriff's office, and predicts that the new $6.5 million helicopter purchase will eventually be a cost-saving measure.

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