FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. Rick Mirabito
Mirabito makes aviation unit part of state budget debate
HARRISBURG, June 13 – State Rep. Rick Mirabito, D-Lycoming, has filed an amendment to the state Fiscal Code proposal, directing the Pennsylvania State Police to return Aviation Unit IV to the Williamsport Regional Airport.
"The state Fiscal Code is essentially the instruction manual for the budget," Mirabito said. "I understand the fiscal restraints we are operating under, but I believe the aviation unit can be returned to Williamsport using existing revenue.
"This is not an issue just for Williamsport but an issue that affects all of rural Pennsylvania," Mirabito said. "In a hearing held just last week, we learned that other communities have relied on the immediacy of critical services provided by the unit. For example, during last fall's floods, this unit was instrumental in saving lives.
"I believe this should be considered as part of the budget negotiations," Mirabito said. "The people of north central Pennsylvania deserve the responsiveness a Williamsport-based service could provide."
Last January, the State Police merged Aviation Unit IV with the unit based in Hazleton.
"My constituents have expressed concerns they have about this drastic change," Mirabito said.
Unit IV served Lycoming County residents since its establishment in 1968. Other counties served were: Bradford, Cameron, Clinton, Montour, Northumberland, Potter, Sullivan, Tioga and Union.
The aviation units provide service to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies by conducting searches, criminal surveillance, homeland security missions, aerial photography and transports. The units have been available to assist in vehicle pursuits, marijuana eradication and other services.
"They have been instrumental in providing protective services during the growth of the Marcellus Shale natural-gas drilling operations," Mirabito said. "By moving the Williamsport-based unit to Hazleton, it took the services that much farther away from the people who would utilize it."