The helicopter program in Rosenberg isn’t going away. Or at least not for another year.
At last week’s Rosenberg City Council workshop meeting, council members agreed to keep the annual $7,500 agreement for helicopter use with Fort Bend County. Before council deliberation, Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls spoke on the issue.
“It’s been probably five years now where we received those two aircrafts,” Nehls started. “We immediately reached out to the Big Three — I call that Sugar Land, Missouri City and Rosenberg. We established a partnership.
“It’s really a fast-growing county and we needed air support. “The agreement we made back then is the municipalities would chip in $7,500 a year for fuel. And that money we received has taken care of the fuel costs. The sheriff’s office takes care of all the equipment, all the upkeep and everything on those aircrafts.
“Those aircrafts are used for you. We are at your service. The $7,500 puts a little skin in the game. It shows that you support the idea and are going to make a small contribution to keep the aircrafts flying.
“In the end, if you say you’re not doing it any more, we’re still coming to your call.”
Mayor Bill Benton asked if there is enough wiggle room in the 2020 fiscal year budget to fund this without messing up the funding. Assistant City Manager Joyce Vasut assured council that the city could continue to fund this program with the budget as presented.
Rosenberg Police Chief Jonathan White explained that his department’s new drone program would aid the city in ways that the helicopters couldn’t.
“We have a great working relationship with the sheriff’s office,” White told council. “We are starting our own aviation unit and when we look at items in our budget, we look at what we best utilize.
“I think it’s a great program and we could definitely continue to use it. But with our air support that we will have, we will probably be using (the drones) more often.”
In June, council members OK’d the creation of a Rosenberg Police Department aviation unit. The program will be used for aiding public safety with unmanned aircraft systems, or drones. The Unmanned Aircraft Systems program will provide a cost-effective means of assisting with public safety operations.
“I don’t think it’s a bad deal, so I’m in,” Benton said. “At least for one more year for $7,500 it will stay within our budget.
“Tell the pilots we look forward to seeing them (up) above.” Because this was a workshop, no action was taken. This item will be brought back to council for consideration.
The next Rosenberg City Council meeting will be held Sept. 3 at City Hall, located at 2110 Fourth St.