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BSO Says It Needs a $6.5 Million Helicopter Because the Other Three It Has Are Needy

The Broward Commission will be deciding today whether the Broward Sheriff's Office gets $6,505,593 for a new helicopter.

Sure, they already have three other helicopters -- the most recent one being 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."

Letters and memos attached to the commission agenda show this has already been approved by Sheriff Al Lamberti and other county administrative people, and looks like it's all but a done deal pending the commission's approval.

According to a letter to the county budget director from Bureau of Grants Management Director Michael Somberg, the new helicopter provides both emergency medical and law enforcement services for the county.

This new EC-135 helicopter the sheriff's office wants -- the third EC-135 helicopter they'd have -- would be ready to go by fall of this year, the letter says.

That helicopter the sheriff's office bought used in March 2010 cost a little over $2.5 million, and just started being used in August 2011.

Now the BSO apparently needs another one -- a new one.

"Purchasing another used helicopter is not the best route to go for the acquisition of an additional helicopter," Somberg writes. "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."

That's apparently the reason that the three other helicopters aren't quite cutting it -- maintenance.

The other three are having "increasing maintenance issues" -- both scheduled and unscheduled -- and only one of the three helicopters have 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 over at the sheriff's office, and predicts that the new $6.5 million helicopter purchase will eventually be a cost-saving measure.

The funds are coming from the Law Enforcement Trust Fund, and the commission will be bringing the issue up at today's meeting.


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