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County to share helicopter

By By MARY-ALLISON LANCASTER – Managing editor
Escambia County Commission Chairman David Stokes, who led his first meeting Monday morning, said that commissioners have verbally committed to providing partial for the maintenance of a helicopter that will be used for emergency management fly-bys throughout Escambia and Conecuh counties.
According to Pat Poole, the pilot of the helicopter, the aircraft was donated to the Conecuh County Sheriff's Department through 10-33, a federal surplus properties program. Poole, who is retired, said will be donating his time. Most pilots who fly for county sheriff departments are paid nearly $50,000 to $75,000, he said.
The helicopter will be utilized through the Emergency Management Agency directors and the sheriff's departments from both counties to conduct any type of emergency or disaster search and rescue, aerial surveillance and general patrolling.
Poole said that he also hopes to transport business prospects interested in making a new industrial site - to be located at Hwy. 41 and I-65 – its new business location.
The Bell OH 58 helicopter will be carried to Panama City today where it will undergo an annual maintenance checkup. Once the checkup is completed, the helicopter will be housed at the Evergreen airport. Stokes said the total maintenance cost for the year is approximately $40,000.
Poole said that he has been soliciting donations from individuals and businesses and has contacted both county commissioners in both counties to receive funds.
Poole said that he hopes to have a $5,000 commitment from Conecuh County Commissioners. Stokes said Monday that Poole had originally asked Escambia County for $2,500, but he has been told Poole was actually going to ask for a higher amount. Poole confirmed Tuesday that he was prepared to ask Escambia County Commissioners for $4,000 and had not received confirmation yet from Conecuh County officials.
The item will be opened for a discussion in which commissioners will decide how much the county will fund for the project. The next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 13 at 9 a.m.
In other county news, commissioners voted to renew the maximum amount allowed by law for its beverage tax levy. The levy is an annual account that has to be adopted by the commission. The levy sets fees for ABC licenses, off-premise beer license and all other necessary licenses in the county.
Commissioners also raised its asset value threshold from $250 to $500. According to County Administrator Tony Sanks, the GASB 34 (Governmental Accounting Standards Board) method of accounting no longer capitalizes assets under $5,000.