Placer County supes vote to finance chopper over seven years

Thunder Valley Casino will contribute funding
By: Gus Thomson Gold Country News Service
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The Placer County Sheriff?s Department quest for a new copter is financially airborne again. With the promise of a $1 million boost from the United Auburn Indian Community, the new Placer County Sheriff?s Department helicopter will be flying soon with financing from the county treasury. Supervisors gave their approval in a 4-1 vote last Tuesday to a plan developed by county Treasurer Jenine Windeshausen. The plan calls for seven years of payments at 2.2 percent interest to pay the extra $1.5 million needed to fund the Aerostar Eurocopter purchase. Supervisors approved the new helicopter in January 2007, setting aside $2.5 million. The sheriff?s department agreed to find other funding sources to pay the remainder of what was initially estimated by the department to be a $3.44 million expenditure. The cost of the helicopter has since risen to $4.07 million. With a donation agreement drafted with the United Auburn tribe to provide $1 million over a multi-year period to assist with capital funding, the sale of the sheriff?s old helicopter at a price of between $400,000 and $600,000 would provide the remainder of the money. Windeshausen outlined an option supported by four of the five supervisors that will see the county treasury financing the purchase over seven years. Interest and finance costs would be $127,000 more than the $1.5 million outlay to bridge the gap in funding for the copter. Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery led board members in supporting the payment option ? one of several Windeshausen put forward. Others included a 12-year financing plan and a lease payment. ?We?re buying a helicopter whether we like it or not,? Montgomery said. ?We just have to figure out the best way to do it.? Supervisor Jim Holmes voted against other supervisors on the funding plan, questioning ?making the most expensive purchase in the history of Placer County? while trying to cut costs and with layoffs ?very certain.? He reacted with a one-word comment ? ?Wow? ? when Montgomery said she?d support a way to pay for the copter. ?I changed my mind,? was Montgomery?s reply. Supervisor Kirk Uhler said the actual decision to buy the helicopter was made in January 2007. ?Where we are today is how are we going to meet that obligation,? Uhler said. Supervisor Rocky Rockholm, a retired Roseville police officer, said the copter will provide an extra level of safety in incidents like high-speed chases. ?I know these are tough economic times but if you can give the sheriff ?s department one more tool in its arsenal then I think it?s worth it,? Rockholm said.