Sheriff fights to keep Air-1 off the auction block

O nondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh is gearing up for a battle to save the Air-1 helicopter.

On Tuesday, December 6th, the Onondaga County Legislature will decide whether the chopper should be declared surplus property and auctioned off. Over the past year, both the County Executive and the Legislature have cut out funding for the helicopter. Sheriff Walsh has been trying to keep it in operation by establishing the Air-1 Foundation to raise private donations.

W alsh is especially upset that some lawmakers have referred to the helicopter as a "luxury" taxpayers can no longer afford."Every life that's been saved, and we can document 138 of them in this county... everyone of those people will tell you it isn't a luxury. It's a lifesaver." The Sheriff will try to convince the lawmakers not to sell off Air-1 when it meets next week. He says it's an essential crime fighting tool which has also assisted in fire fighting efforts and medical transports.

In addition to establishing a fund raising foundation, Walsh says the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to grant a certification which would allow the Sheriff's Department to charge insurance companies for rescue transports. Though medical transports account for only a small portion of the total number of calls for Air-1, the Sheriff says that certification may raise $100-thousand per year. It costs the department about $600-thousand dollars a year to keep the helicopter flying.