Florence County scrambles to find funding for FCSO helicopter - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Florence County scrambles to find funding for FCSO helicopter

FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - The new Florence County Sheriff's Office Aviation Program could be over before it even gets off the ground.

The county said it doesn't have enough money to fund the new helicopter program the sheriff's office just launched.

Florence County Vice Chairman James Schofield said raising taxes to fund that new program is not an option.

“I don't know where it would come from because we don't have any extra funds in the budget,” said Schofield.

It's for that reason Florence County Council said it can't approve a request from the sheriff's office to fund the helicopter it got about a month ago through a military program.

The chopper was donated free of charge, but county council said when the sheriff's office accepted it, no one asked if there would be funding to support this new arm.

“No, we didn't know up front that it was happening. After he was successful in getting it, [Sheriff Kenney Boone] called me and told me we're getting a helicopter, in fact we are getting two of them,” Schofield said.

While that one helicopter has already been in use, the other is only for spare parts, but it's the spare money in the budget that is causing a little bit of a hang up.

“He did have $300,000 for the sheriff's aviation program and it's my understanding that is to assist them with it,” Schofield said.

Captain Michael Nunn said money picked up through drug busts can be used to fuel the helicopter, but only when it's being used on drug missions.

To use the chopper for things like missing persons cases, extra funding would have to come from the county.

WMBF News asked the chairman what would happen to the helicopter if funding can't be found.

“He might have to turn it back into them or transfer it to another county that can take it up,” Schofield said.

The Florence County Council Vice Chair said this simply comes down to funding and priorities have to be met.

“It was not part of the budget last year so it's not in this year's budget,” Schofield said.

Thursday, county council will have a budget workshop.

Schofield said at that time further discussion could take place that leads to funding the helicopter.

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