By Associated Press - Tuesday, October 23, 2018

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - The Omaha City Council is considering a plan for the police department to spend $1.2 million to expand a nearby city’s airport to house its helicopter fleet and crews.

The Omaha Police Department wants to move its helicopter program from the North Omaha Airport to the Blair Municipal Airport, which officials said has more room for expansion, the Omaha World-Herald reported. The department would fund the renovation of a hangar, adding offices and a fire sprinkler system.

The $1.2 million remodeling project would be paid for with the city’s public facilities bonds.



Police have said that the move make sense financially, though rent in Blair would be the same amount the city is already paying to house its program in Omaha. But police said the move guarantees stability through a long-term lease.

The department pays $3,000 each month to rent space at the Omaha airport, where it has only a month-to-month lease. The department has proposed a 10-year lease in Blair, which could be extended even longer.

Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer said residents likely won’t notice a difference because their level of service will stay the same, even with the added distance.

There’s also been uncertainty about the future of the Omaha airport, Schmaderer said.

“It needs to be operational for the foreseeable future, and unfortunately the North Omaha Airport could not provide that to us,” he said.

North Omaha Airport owner Keith Edquist said the airport is staying put and has secured a loan to expand.

He said the city would end up paying more to maintain its fleet in Blair because the airport is about 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of his airport.

The Omaha City Council will vote on the new lease agreement Nov. 6.

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, http://www.omaha.com

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