SHERIFF WANTS TO OWN HELICOPTER
The Sheriff rejected joining SABLE, a multi-county partnership that shares in the cost of operating a helicopter that was given for free by the feds because he said it was a waste of money. "This department can't afford - and probably doesn't need - to share a helicopter with other law-enforcement agencies." Then a local businessman Scott Gerow offered the use of his helicopter for free, all the county would have to do is pay for the gas of operating the Robinson R44 Raven helicopter which Sheriff Causey claims it to cost $72.60 per hour to operate which is much less than the manufacturers estimate of $174.16 per hour. Apparently Scott Gerow is paying the estimated $11,000 in insurance on the aircraft himself. The county isn't. Perhaps to help out with the high overhead the Sheriff has given Gerow a full time job as a $48,000/year Lieutenant. There is an estimated $36,000 in interest payments and $11,000 a year in insurance. In Gerow's spare time he is enrolled in special classes at CFCC so that he can complete his BLET (basic law enforcement training) . Gerow has several rental properties and owns a landscaping firm as well as a residential construction development company. In fact this isn't his first business dealings with the county. In 2001 his company Green with Envy was awarded a landscaping maintenance contract for county properties including the jail annex. The 2 year contract amount was for $181,969.20.
Even though Causey estimates only using Gerow's Port City Helicopter services to fly the bird roughly only 20 hours since he has had the agreement with Gerow, Causey feels the need to pony up taxpayer money to the tune of over $600,000 to buy his own egg beater.
Sheriff Causey claims that the purchase money is not tax money but grant money (which over $200k is coming from the feds and of course THAT MONEY IS TAX MONEY) and from drug seizures and forfeitures. Sheriff Sid Causey says "the helicopter is especially useful in the county's Project Lifesaver Program. " The program provides tracking bracelets for Alzheimer's patients. Unfortunately the way the drug forfeiture laws are the money can only be used for drug enforcement. If he were to use drug money for anything other than that it could be misappropriation of funds or embezzlement. So I'm sure he misspoke about using it for finding missing persons without paying for it another way.
I seriously doubt that Sheriff Causey will follow thru with his purchase, at least not now. The Wilmington Star News reported that Causey wants to ask the commssioners for the money on March 10th, the same night the County will sign off on the two and a half million dollar settlement with the estate of Peyton Strickland. Should this deal fail to work out for the sheriff it is questionable as to the status of the future situation regarding Lt. Scott Gerow's generosity. After all it won't be very much longer before people begin to remember Franklin County's helicopter.