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GSP helicopter hangar included in Senate budget

ATLANTA - The Thomson-McDuffie County Airport could see money to build a new helicopter hangar for state law enforcement officials as part of budget recommendations the Senate approved Wednesday.

The upper chamber included $250,000 for the construction for the Georgia State Patrol facility at the airport as part of its midyear budget adjustments.

While changes to the nearly $17.9 billion spending plan still need to be worked out among House and Senate members, one area lawmaker said he is optimistic that the hangar funding will stay in through the negotiations.

"I have talked to the two appropriations chairmen, and they feel good that it's a very worthwhile thing," said Sen. Jim Whitehead, R-Evans, who represents McDuffie County. "It's very vital that we do this for the fact that this probably serves 10 counties from that airport."

He said that while the Georgia State Patrol owns the helicopter, the state authorities also use it to help local officials, particularly with searches.

"I talked to the sheriff in Warren County, and he said he probably uses them close to a dozen times a year just to find lost hunters," Sen. Whitehead said.

Sen. Whitehead said he is still waiting to see if the state will pitch in money as part of the Department of Transportation's 2007 budget to help fund other improvements at the airport, such as extending the runway.

Web posted on Thursday, February 23, 2006

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