Neighbors Oppose Rescue Chopper Base

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Depending on the circumstances, the sound of a helicopter can be among the most welcome or most obtrusive sounds and that is the dichotomy facing civic officials in rural Bedminster, N.J. The State Police want to move a rescue helicopter from Newark to nearby Somerset Airport in a bid to better cover the emergency needs of that growing area of the state. But neighbors and some civic officials object to the plan, saying the chopper operations will bother them and their livestock (yes, they have livestock in New Jersey). Meanwhile, airport officials hundreds of miles away in Lantana, Fla., have apparently made up their minds on the future of a helicopter flight school labeled a public safety hazard for its proximity to the town. Bruce Pelly, director of airports, has written the FAA claiming Palm Beach Helicopter is a safety threat to surrounding neighborhoods. Two Palm Beach helicopters have been involved in accidents in the last month but owner Randy Rowles told the Sun-Sentinel he resented the characterization of his business as a safety hazard. Both the company and the local government have been trying to find an alternative location for the flight school but no suitable sites are available. Safety isn't the only concern, however. "The repetitive operations are extremely annoying to the community," Pelly wrote in an earlier letter to the FAA.