After hours of debate and a tight seven to six vote, city council approved $3.5 million for a new police helicopter to replace the aging Air-1 and Air-2.
“I think they’re a valuable tool in the police arsenal … for crime prevention,” said Coun. Dave Loken, who voted for the measure.
Mayor Don Iveson, who voted in favour of the new chopper, said he sees value in the program, but he isn't sure the proposed model meets the needs of the city because of noise concerns.
Council asked the mayor to lobby helicopter manufacturer Airbus to create a single engine chopper that produces less noise.
Before the police commission can buy a replacement helicopter, council wants to see a report on the justification for the model they decide to purchase.
The commission initially asked for a much larger twin-engine chopper at a cost of $7 million, but a majority of council felt it wasn't worth the expense.
Some councillors, like Andrew Knack, felt that even the single-engine aircraft wasn't worth the cost.
“I’m glad that less is being spent," he said, pointing out that current police helicopters are grounded many days of the year because of weather.
“There are a lot of things that people want in this budget. There comes a point where you have to say ‘no, we just can’t spend this much.’”
He said that with technological changes and more police agencies turning to drones, he didn't feel that the helicopter was a good investment.