Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh is to petition County Executive Joanie Mahoney to get their "Air-1" Bell 407 put back in the county budget for next year. The budget Mahoney presented to the county Legislature on Wednesday assumes that the sheriff will raise all of the money for Air-1 through donations and by charging fees for transporting accident victims to hospitals.
The sheriff’s office has raised only $4,000 in donations for Air-1 through a non-profit foundation it formed earlier this year. The office also has applied to the Federal Aviation Administration for a commercial operator’s license, which would allow it to charge patients for medical transports.
Legislature Chairman James Rhinehart said that the 407 is a luxury the county can no longer afford, and he will do all he can to block it. His objection centres on the ongoing sheriff’s office practice of transporting victims of accidents in other counties over many years — at no charge to those other counties.
Walsh said he considers the free medical transports that Air-1 provides to other counties to be no different than the mutual aid that fire departments from different counties provide to each other during major fires.
Rhinehart counters by saying this analogy is a poor one as no other nearby counties have a helicopter to provide medical transports for Onondaga County if needed.
William P Johnson - HeliHub.com
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