Two Army surplus helicopters may still be available to the Salt Lake County sheriff's office, a sheriff's officer said Tuesday.

Lt. Mike Wilkinson, who is in charge of special services for the sheriff's office, said he and other department officials are optimistic that the two aircraft now at Fort Rucker, Ala., can be obtained by the county.William A. Arseneau heads the Utah surplus property agency, which has been trying to assist the sheriff's office obtain the aircraft.

Arseneau and other officials of the National Association of State Agencies for Surplus Property, meeting this week at University Park Hotel in Salt Lake City, conferred Monday with Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, Chief Deputy Salt Lake County Sheriff Charlie Shepherd, Wilkinson and Reserve Deputy Penny Anjewierden, concerning the helicopters.

Arseneau said after the meeting that Owens expressed support for obtaining them. But Arseneau emphasized that Salt Lake County must compete with at least 23 states who are also interested in the aircraft. Most of the requests are related to public safety.

Wilkinson said based on helicopter usage elsewhere, Salt Lake metropolitan area certainly merits at least one rescue helicopter.

The officer said the Salt Lake County sheriff's office has a written agreement with four other counties and the state of Utah for rescue operations on the Great Salt Lake. A pararescue group that formerly operated out of Hill Air Force Base was transferred a number of months ago to Florida. So if a military aircraft were to crash in the Great Salt Lake, Salt Lake and other counties would be responsible for rescue operations.

Hundreds of planes take off and land each day from Hill, and their flight paths cross the lake.

Arseneau said his agency has three other requests for helicopters within the state, "but our division has determined that the first will go to Salt Lake County. If we're fortunate enough to obtain other aircraft, then they would go to other areas."

Other requests have been submitted by Salt Lake Community College, West Valley City (also for public safety) and Carbon County.