ALBANY – The head of the union representing 3,800 state troopers has asked state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to overturn the recent decision by his office to reject the purchase of a no-bid, $12.5 million contract for a new helicopter for State Police.
The used helicopter, a Sikorsky S76-D, would be used for a variety of purposes, including shuttling Gov. Andrew Cuomo around parts of the state.
“It is crucial that this contract be approved as this acquisition is vital to the safety and security of the members of the New York State Police and the passengers and public who rely on these aircraft,’’ Thomas Mungeer, president of the Police Benevolent Association of the New York State Troopers union, wrote in a letter to DiNapoli on Monday.
The letter was obtained by The Buffalo News; the union declined comment.
DiNapoli’s office rejected the helicopter contract late last month, saying the State Police had not fully justified the cost or explained how it intends to modify the aircraft’s interior – from its present “deluxe VIP interior group" configuration being offered by Sikorsky to the state – for other missions, such as medevac and search and rescue.
Cuomo administration officials have insisted the matter is not over, and they are still seeking to resolve issues with the comptroller’s office.
Mungeer noted that State Police operates one helicopter short since the forced landing damaged one of its Bell aircraft.
“The situation has added considerable stress and wear and tear on the remaining helicopters, as evidenced by the sharp increase in emergency landings over the past year,’’ Mungeer said, of the agency’s existing helicopter fleet.
In his letter to DiNapoli, he noted, as the agency has as well, that the State Police has not purchased a helicopter since 2002 and that one aircraft in its fleet is as old as 53 years.
“The situation puts the safety of our members at risk and is not acceptable,’’ Mungeer wrote DiNapoli.
Jennifer Freeman, a DiNapoli spokeswoman, said: "Our job is to evaluate whether an entity has done its due diligence, which did not happen in this case. We appreciate getting feedback from the groups affected, such as the PBA. However, we have a number of remaining questions on this procurement and are still waiting to receive written documentation and information to address our concerns. We are an independent agency charged with protecting the taxpayers, and we don't rubber stamp contracts."