City council discusses Trail of Lights' future, APD helicopter


by ASHLEY GOUDEAU / KVUE News and Photojournalist DAVID GARDNER

Bio | Email | Follow: @AshleyG_KVUE

Posted on March 21, 2013 at 6:15 PM

Updated Thursday, Mar 21 at 6:51 PM

AUSTIN -- Thursday was a busy day at Austin City Hall. The council is tackling 70 items on its agenda.

One of the first items approved was amending the budget so that different departments within the city, including fire, police and EMS, can purchase some much needed equipment.

The council is essentially moving about $2.6 million out of its savings to purchase heart monitors, body armor and other equipment. The next item approved puts that money back into the savings this summer. 

The Austin Police Department is one step closer to having its new helicopter. Last August the council approved the purchase of a $2.6 million chopper. Thursday it authorized APD to spend another $1.18 million to outfit it.

"Things such as the specialized equipment that we have on there, like the thermal imaging, what they call the FLIR, the infrared, the spotlight that goes on it and just other equipment, computers, the mapping system," said Cpl. Wuthipong Tantaksinanukij with APD's Air Support Unit.

The helicopter will also have fire fighting capabilities and will be able to assist EMS crews when needed. It is expected to be delivered to Austin in July.

There was also some exciting news for the Trail of Lights. The council directed City Manager Marc Ott to negotiate a contract with the RunTex Foundation to produce the holiday lights show for the next five years.

CEO Paul Carrozza says the contract will make securing sponsors for the event much easier and will allow proper time to plan needed improvements.

"There was obviously a big community support for coming out, so we are wanting to get really sophisticated transportation systems and potentially extend it to more nights," said Carrozza.

Carrozza also plans to make improvements to and add light displays.