Winnipeg city council voted Tuesday morning to give wings to the city police, or rather propellers.

Councillors approved spending  $3.5 million  to outfit the police with a helicopter. It was part of a $430-million capital budget council passed by a vote of 13-3.

During the debate, several councillors expressed misgivings about the chopper. Some asked if the money could be better spent by adding more police or on other urgent needs such as fixing the battered roads.

Others wanted a detailed analysis showing how the helicopter will improve police effectiveness.

"I think what we need in these proceedings sometimes is good, old-fashioned common sense," said Coun. Dan Vandal (St. Boniface).

"I would have expected some sort of report to be here before us."

In the end, some of those who raised concerns — including Vandal — voted in support of the budget.

Those who voted against were Couns. Lillian Thomas (Elmwood-East Kildonan), Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge) and Harvey Smith (Daniel McIntyre).

'That was my constituent and so I [am] for the helicopter — yes, yes, yes, yes.'—Coun. Harry Lazarenko

Coun. Harry Lazarenko (Mynarski) said a helicopter could have made a difference last Friday when a stolen vehicle killed Zdzislaw Andrzejczak, 47, in the city's North End.

He thinks the helicopter could have been used to track the stolen vehicle and direct ground crews to  stop it before it reached Andrzejczak.

"That was my constituent and so I [am] for the helicopter — yes, yes, yes, yes," Lazarenko said.

Andrzejczak was killed at about 3 p.m. Friday when a stolen Hummer H2 slammed into his compact car at the intersection of Andrews Street and Alfred Avenue.

Police Chief Keith McCaskill has said the helicopter would include an infrared device to detect heat sources on the ground.

Operating the helicopter will cost about $1 million annually, he has said.

In its throne speech, the provincial government  promised support but  Premier Greg Selinger said he needs to have more discussions with  police  before making any financial commitment.

The capital budget also contains funding for several new projects. They include:

  • $20 million for hiking, biking and other non-vehicle trails, bringing the city's total active transportation investment to $22.2 million in 2010.
  • $54.7 million over the next two years for a network of roads in the developing Waverley West neighbourhood.
  • $8 million for Assiniboine Park redevelopment.