By Jackson Frolic | Beacon Senior editor
Emotions were on fire at last night’s meeting of the Town Council, also known variously as the Town Council meeting, the Community Council get together and the thing I have to go to on Monday, as Bass Lake residents voiced support for and against the community helicopter. Town officials also weighed in on the fate of the chopper, which was stolen from Bass Lake High School a week after it crash landed prior to the Canoes home football opener. In the end the council voted to ground the chopper in absentia.
The purchase of the Schweizer 269C-1 for $240,000 was approved unanimously in April despite no real need for a helicopter. Since then the whirlybird has mostly sat idle due to what some residents called incompetence on the part of Bass Lake Authority Police Chief Gwen “Tug” McNabb. Chief McNabb has sole access to the helicopter. At least until someone stole it.
The theft of the chopper was the last straw for several residents, who view the disappearance of the craft as further evidence of Chief McNabb’s incompetence.
“The thing never did fly right,” McNabb told council members. “I think we got ripped off.”
That’s the one thing residents and town leaders could agree on. But there were others. M.I. Angola, who lives on the lake near the airport but not so close that it is annoying, said he watched chief McNabb practice flying the helicopter on numerous occasions.
“That helicopter ran fine,” Angola said. “I’m just amazed McNabb didn’t destroy it completely before it was stolen. This whole idea was a fiasco from the get go. The get go.”
Council member Enos Felger (D-Dave’s House) who was a vocal supporter of the helicopter purchase, blamed the problems on Mayor-by-default Delores “Common”Denominator, who Felger said “sided with McNabb every step of the way.”
“Sure I thought it was a good idea at the time,” Felger said. “Who didn’t? Everybody loves helicopters. They’re freaking awesome.”
Felger said the main reason he now opposes the chopper is the way it was paid for. Felger told the council and the throng of residents that he believed Homeland Security funding would cover the cost. That turned out not to be the case.
“The chief lied, boldface, right to my face,” Felger said, shaking his finger at chief McNabb. “She did too,” he added, indicating mayor-by-default Denominator with his other finger.
Mayor-by-default Denominator recoiled at the accusation. She claimed it was McNabb who came up with the Homeland Security scheme.
“It was his idea,” she said, nodding at McNabb who was seated next to her. “He told me not to worry because the drug money he would confiscate through chopper surveillance would buy the thing several times over.”
At this point in the meeting Cooper Sanderstroms, owner of Cooper’s Coops and Chicken Accessories, mounted the lectern and railed against the town for not getting the sidewalks in front of his shop replaced in a timely manner. Flanked by fellow in-town merchants Jennifer Sparkle, of Jen’s Ribbon Cutting, and Larry Karen, of Karen’s Ribbon & Scissors Warehouse, Sanderstroms then said the idea of a town the size of Bass Lake owning a helicopter was like a town the size of Nearbytown owning an armored personnel carrier.
“They have three cops, we have four,” Sanderstroms said. “But I think we may have half a cop we can lend them so we’ll be even.”
Nearbytown does in fact have an armored personnel carrier, which was paid for with Homeland Security funds. But someone lost the keys to it and it has yet to be deployed. Not so with the Bass Lake Helicopter. Chief McNabb has reportedly logged some 1,200 hours on the airport runway alone, according to Federal Aviation Administration records. The only flights away from the airport both ended in crash landings, once in the lake and the most recent at the football field.
Council member M. Adam Bradbury (R-Bass Lake) made a motion to ground the helicopter until it can be located, at which time it will be grounded again. The rest of the council approved the motion. Bradbury also moved to have mayor-by-default Denominator and chief McNabb suspended from office and/or duty until an investigation is completed.
“Somebody has to get to the bottom of this,” Bradbury said. “And I suspect it will be me.”
McNabb, seeking to get the last work in edgewise as he was leaving Town Hall, vowed to get even with the council.
“You’ll get to the bottom of nothing and like it!” McNabb shouted. “And that goes for the rest of you. Watch where you park your cars.”
McNabb then attempted to drive away in his police cruiser, but the vehicle sputtered to a stop before it left the parking lot.
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