Erie County Legislators Thursday approved keeping the Sheriff Department's Air One helicopter at its current base in the Town of Evans.
Legislators approved a new five-year lease with Evans Airways for continuing use of the secure hangar and facilities by the Sheriff's Department.
"It is such a great tactical asset, whether we're doing SWAT raids, whether we're looking for lost individuals in Zoar Valley or in the lakes and waterways," said Department Spokesman Scott Zylka. "It is a tremendous asset that we own and it's a great community asset."
The lease calls for a $31,000 payment next year, then the charge goes up $1,000 each succeeding year to 2021. The letter sent to the Legislature by County Executive Mark Poloncarz said the end of the lease coincides with the life expectancy of the helicopter.
Zylka said Evans is a good site, giving access to the county, surrounding counties and Lake Erie for helicopter duties.
"Evans is the only heliport that we lease," Zylka said. "Obviously, the uniqueness of the rotor aircraft is that we can land pretty much anywhere but that is where we hangar the aircraft and do maintenance of it and any other related aircraft job."
Zylka said the Sheriff's Department has special requirements on access and security because it is law enforcement.
"We're in a unique position where they offer the security that we need, the amenities we need. We're the only operator or aircraft there, so we have 24-hour access," Zylka said. "We don't have to worry about ground traffic, we don't have to worry about air traffic and we have a secure location."
He said the owner has been good in the past about those issues and is promising to continue those duties.