By Nathalie Hardy • Columnist • 

County offers hangar for sale

The program was overseen by Information Services Manager Murray Paolo from 1998 to 2009. After sale of three military-surplus OH-58A jet helicopters on eBay — and donation of a fourth to the Sacramento Police Department, due to federal regulations prohibiting its sale — the empty hangar is all that remains.

Deputy Administrator Chuck Vesper said five parties have expressed interest in the hangar. He said he is negotiating to get the best terms he can.

While the county owns the hangar outright, the city owns the land under it. The county holds a 35-year lease with 27 years yet to run, and that will be conveyed as part of the deal.

The county bought the hangar in 2005 for $112,000. It pays the city $1,200 a year for rent under terms of its lease agreement. In addition, the county picks up the tab for the electrical bill and insuring the hangar.

Vesper said there is simply no reason for the county to hang onto the hangar when it has no intention of reviving its air support program. He said the county concluded the air support program was a luxury beyond its means, and the hangar is simply the last vestige of it.

The beginning of the end came in 2009, when Paolo came under fire from the county commissioners, with then-Commissioner Leslie Lewis leading the way and Commissioner Kathy George lending support. They accused him of creating a program too expensive and elaborate for such a small, rural county, particularly in trying economic times, and cutting corners in the process.

Paolo, a helicopter pilot, mechanic and enthusiast of long standing, expressed disappointment. He took exception to the commissioners’ line of reasoning, saying the program drew on suplus parts, federal grants and hundreds of hours in volunteer pilot and mechanic time.

The county’s original goal was to find a Portland Metro Area law enforcement agency willing to take it over in exchange for providing some Yamhill County coverage.

But in the end, the county was only able to place one element on those terms — a heat-tracking, forward-looking infrared night-vision system, known as a FLIR system, which was placed with the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office. It is destined for use on a fixed-wing patrol aircraft, to which Yamhill County will have access.

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