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Committee recommends helicopter patrols

TALENT - The Police Helicopter Advisory Committee (PHAC) voted Thursday night to recommend to the City Council that Metro Air One resume helicopter patrols with certain restrictions.

Metro Air One is a cooperative air support unit formed in 1997 by local police agencies to assist ground patrol.

It's been involved in such things as felony and misdemeanor arrests, search-and-rescue operations and spotting fires.

The restrictions limit the routine patrol area to northeast of Highway 99, increase the minimum altitude from 1,000 to 1,500 feet in the daytime, and from 1,750 to 2,250 feet at night, and limit the use of the spotlight to potentially life-threatening emergencies.

The advisory committee also recommends that liability coverage for the flights remain at $10 million, if not more.

Additionally, the committee recommends a review take place within 90 days from the resumption of flights. PHAC proposed that the committee continue meeting as an oversight committee to review feedback and complaints from residents.

If the City Council accepts the recommendation, Talent will rejoin the communities of Ashland, Central Point, Shady Cove, Eagle Point, Butte Falls, and the Veterans Affairs Domiciliary in White City in having the helicopter patrols.

Use of Metro Air One's jet turbine helicopter was donated by Herb Sutton, who owns the helicopter and covers operating expenses.

The city received a 57-signature petition complaining of the helicopter's noise level, low altitude and use of spotlight. The council voted July 2 to suspend patrol flights until further study.

The Police Helicopter Advisory Committee was appointed at the Aug. 15 City Council meeting to study the issue and make recommendations. The members, representing various opinions, include two councilmen, Don Steyskal and Brian Roberts, and six residents: Ron Medinger, Emil Donato, John Ramsay, Kim Cower, Michael Mews, and Joi Riley.

In addition to the first petition, a 150-signature petition requesting reinstatement was submitted to council.

The PHAC will present its recommendation at the next City Council meeting, scheduled for 6:45 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Community Center.

Meg Landers is a free-lance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at.