ABLE looks to sell its choppers

NEWPORT BEACH — The AirBorne Law Enforcement (ABLE) agency is expected to hire a private broker this month to help the agency sell off its three police helicopters.

About six months ago the cities of Newport Beach and Costa Mesa grounded the program that patrolled both cities and now contract with Huntington Beach for air support.

ABLE board members discussed the idea of using a broker to sell the choppers during their regularly scheduled meeting Thursday at Newport Beach police headquarters.

ABLE Cmdr. Tim Starn is in the process of shutting down the program, removing police equipment from the agency's three helicopters, and selling off the agency's other tools and thousands of gallons in unused fuel.

Though Starn will continue to supervise the program's dismantling, he is being folded back into Costa Mesa's regular department operations.

The program shut down at the end of June when the Costa Mesa City Council, in response to a broad overhaul of city spending, dropped out as a partner.

Costa Mesa Police Department officials at the time said the helicopters in particular would be difficult to sell, as potential customers — government agencies, in particular — tighten their belts.

ABLE has tapped two longtime aircraft brokers — local dealer Jack Schafer Aircraft Sales and Alabama-based GovDeals Inc. — as candidates to sell the crafts.

The ABLE board, comprised of the chief and a captain from each department, plans to choose the broker Jan. 23.

Schafer would receive a 4.5% commission on any sale, according to his proposed contract.

GovDeals would charge the buyer a 5% premium on top of the sale price, giving ABLE full retail value.

Costa Mesa and Newport Beach would have to approve a sale and then split the revenue.

Each contract is proposed to last 30 days, giving the board flexibility if it wants to change brokers, board members said.

Meanwhile, ABLE still has 5,000 gallons of unspent fuel.

The helicopter fuel lasts about a year; Starn estimated it should be good until April or May. Costa Mesa police Capt. Les Gogerty told the board that Huntington Beach seemed open to the idea of trading the fuel in for service hours over Newport-Mesa.

Since ABLE was grounded, Newport has contracted with Huntington Beach to have its police helicopter patrol Newport for a set time every day. Costa Mesa calls for service on an as-needed basis.

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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