Police heliport will soon call Westside home

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Messenger photo by Whitney Wilson Coy
This helicopter, owned by the Columbus Division of Police Helicopter Unit, will soon call a new heliport off West Broad Street home.

Development in the Hilltop Area is about to take flight.

In May, State Treasurer Richard Cordray completed an inventory of all properties owned by the State of Ohio. This inventory was a part of his new State Properties Program, a program that compiles all state-owned land.

He is now using that list to work with local governments and residents to put any unused or under-utilized land to better use.

“If the state doesn’t know what it has, then it can’t do anything with it,” said Cordray.

A perfect example of this cooperation now existing between state and local governments took place on July 25.

Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman, along with Cordray, State Senator Steve Stivers, various council members and community leaders and residents, announced the coming of a new Columbus Division of Police heliport to be located on the Westside.

The 12.9-acre parcel of land, located off West Broad Street, near the Ohio Department of Transportation/Ohio Public Safety complex, was sold to the City of Columbus for $194,955 after being approved by Council on July 9.

“It’s a great day in the City of Columbus, it’s a great day for the Hilltop, and it’s a great day for the residents,” began Coleman.

He went on to explain how having officers in flight helps the department be the best that it can be.

“I already know they are the best police department in the nation,” said Coleman.

The use of a helicopter enhances the police department abilities in many ways. It improves not only patrol radius, but also response time. It helps gather information and conduct surveillance and improves the safety of high-speed car chase situations.

The services provided by the Columbus Division of Police Helicopter Unit are available 365 days a year. While they maintain at least one pilot in the sky between the hours of noon and 4 a.m., one can be ready to go at a moment’s notice, no matter what the hour.

This unit of the police department has been very accomplished as of late. Since 2002, they have been involved in over 75,000 incidents, almost 27,000 of which they were the first to arrive on scene. Their average response time is under two-minutes.

The Columbus Division of Police Helicopter Unit has also assisted with over 1,000 felony arrests and participated in over 620 vehicle pursuits.

The unit has 21 pilots and 6 helicopters, which, according to Coleman, makes them the third largest police helicopter unit in the nation, following only Los Angeles and Houston.

Coleman spoke of the advantages of having helicopters in the air over the Hilltop.

“Having one officer in the air is like having three officers on the ground,” said Coleman, “they can spot and focus in on the activity of a crime.”

He also stated that the central location off West Broad Street will help the officers to get to crime scenes faster and more efficiently.

“Those that are trying to run away from a helicopter, understand that it’s not going to happen,” Coleman added.

The new facility will be nearly 12,000 square-feet, according to Coleman. This is more than double the size of the heliport’s current location, at 681 W. 3rd Ave., which is 5,000 square-feet. They have been at that location since 1975.

The $8.8 million facility will include a flight/apparatus bay, a flight control room, a three pad landing tarmac, office space, jet fuel tanks and parking areas – all surrounded by security fencing.

The new building will also be the another “green” building to add to Columbus’ ever-growing list. Featuring LEED components such as special roofing and insulation systems, coupled with the use of recycled materials, buildings such as this are putting Columbus in the lead as far as “green” development is concerned.

Coleman notified residents to expect a ground-breaking ceremony sometime in October, enabling the unit to move into their new headquarters by 2009.

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