The General Services Administration on Thursday approved the transfer of five surplus Army helicopters to Utah agencies.
Salt Lake County sheriff's department will receive two of the aircraft, one of which will be used as a source of spare parts; the State Department of Public Safety, Carbon County and Salt Lake Community College will get the others, according to a spokesman for Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah. Last month, Owens urged the GSA to approve the state agencies' applications for the helicopters.The helicopters are Hughes model TH-55-A's, and are currently stored at Ft. Rucker, Ala.
Salt Lake County Sheriff Pete Hayward said Friday he is very pleased that the county has been able to secure two copters, which will cost about $1,000 each.
"These same aircraft on the market, even used equipment, would cost about $60,000," Hayward said.
He said the helicopters will be used in a number of areas, including patrol, traffic, drug raids and arrests and search and rescue operations.
"We feel very good about the effort that went into getting the equipment," Hayward said, thanking William A. Arseneau, who heads the Utah Division of Surplus Property, and others.
Hayward said if the aircraft, which will be shipped to Salt Lake County, are in good condition, that one may be used as a backup to the other.
"We will try to keep both in flyable condition, but if they are not, then one helicopter will be used for spare parts for the other," Hayward said.
Mike Royce, chief pilot for the Utah Department of Public Safety, said the state will pay the same amount as the county for its helicopter, which will be used for law enforcement.
"It's no secret that we have been trying to apply helicopters to law enforcement for a number of years and now have the opportunity to explore those avenues without a large expenditure of tax dollars," Royce said.
The helicopter should be available to the state within the next two or three weeks, he said.
Royce said specific details on plans for use of the helicopter have yet to be worked out.
The helicopter for Salt Lake Community College will be used for the college's aviation maintenance program.
The Deseret News contacted the Carbon County sheriff's office Friday morning, but no one was available to comment on plans for use of the equipment by that agency.