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Plan by Onondaga County lawmakers to sell Air One helicopter fails

A plan to ground the Onondaga County Sheriff's Department's Air One helicopter was scrapped by county lawmakers Tuesday.  Lawmakers overwhelmingly voted against a proposal to sell the airship as surplus. 

Republican James Rhinehart pushed for  the sale, concerned that too many times the chopper would ferry people in neighboring counties to hospitals in Onondaga County.

“I’m asking taxpayers in Otisco in the town to pay higher taxes, while Cortland County residents down the street from them get free helicopter service,” said Rhinehart. “I disagree with that.”

It will cost $595,000 a year to operate Air One, to pay the pilots, insurance,  upkeep and other incidentals that come with operating a chopper. Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh says he's confident that money can be raised and that's his goal in the coming year. One of the places he's hoping to find help is in the surrounding counties that use Air One in emergencies, but don't chip in at this point. 

“I had a meeting with the 13 sheriffs and emergency managers from the surrounding counties," said Walsh. "We made our pitch and they went back to their legislators and we’re waiting to hear from those counties as to whether or not they’ll be able to support us."

Oswego county legislators today will consider making a payment to Onondaga County to support Air One.  Walsh also says fundraising letters will be going out later this month asking for help from Onondaga County, as well as some of the surrounding counties, and he expects a federal designation will allow the county to charge for medical transports.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.