Council comes up with creative way to help fund Edmonton police helicopter

The Edmonton Police Service's new Air 1 helicopter. It was unveiled to the public on Friday, Feb. 23, 2018. Courtesy: Edmonton police

Edmonton is going to get another police helicopter but how it will be funded is still up in the air.

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During Thursday’s budget deliberations at city hall, councillors debated the Edmonton Police Service’s request for a $6-million helicopter.

The aircraft would be a replacement that is not needed immediately, which caused some members of council to express reluctance.

READ MORE: Councillors decide Edmonton police will get budget boost but not as much as requested

However, right as it seemed the request would be denied, councillors floated the idea of loaning EPS the money to fund the helicopter itself.

“They can repay that amount of money over five, six [or] seven years, maybe longer, if they prefer,” said Councillor Sarah Hamilton, who sits on the police commission.

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“It’s a much smaller hit to the budget, so to speak. They can also decide: is this the best way to spend that money? Could we lease a helicopter? Could we buy one secondhand? Could we share one? So there’s a lot of options here and it keeps the helicopter request alive.”

READ MORE: Stronger, faster Air 1 helicopter unveiled by Edmonton Police Service

Councillor Scott McKeen said he feels this option makes sense.

“We’re essentially saying in this motion: ‘You want a helicopter? Find the dollars to pay for it.’

“Yes, the efficiency factor may have been returned to the city in this way — it’s being returned to something that is a priority for the police service — but I think that is absolutely just.”

READ MORE: Edmonton Police Service Air 1 team receives international awards

Watch below: It appears there’s not as much room to borrow as in years past and that means Edmonton City Council may need to drop items from its wish-list as the budget debate continues. Vinesh Pratap reports.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton City Council may need to drop items from wish-list as budget debate continues'
Edmonton City Council may need to drop items from wish-list as budget debate continues

Councillor Ben Henderson felt more comfortable denying the helicopter request.

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“Is it an absolute need to have two helicopters that can do that? I’m really struggling with that question,” he said.

“I think if this was about no helicopters versus one helicopter, I’d be in a different boat. But that’s why I called it the backup helicopter.”

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“My question is: when things are tight, is this a time when we need everything to be at that absolute optimum, or is this something we can wait three or four years in order to look at again?”

More will be worked out by a council committee in the new year.

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