MAHONING TWP. — The township supervisors decided Monday to purchase two drones — one each for the zoning and police departments.

The supervisors voted 4-1 to purchase a two-drone set for $13,475. Supervisor John Whelan, who asked they hold off on the purchase until next year, voted no.

No taxpayer funds will be used for the purchase. The township will use money from its Uniform Construction Code Fund, which is funded by building and zoning permit fees, which pay the zoning office’s operating expenses.

The idea originated with township zoning officers Dean VonBlohn and Jim Dragano to use for mapping difficult to reach properties, viewing erosion, inspecting buildings and other uses. Officials feel the police also could use a drone to reconstruct crash scenes, map crime scenes, search and rescue with thermal imaging, manage traffic flow and use for other purposes.

Because each drone would require a different kind of camera, and a drone with just one camera would cost $26,000-$30,000 because it would have to be upgraded for different uses, VonBlohn and Dragano found a better deal.

“We spend a lot of time in the field,” VonBlohn said.

He said sometimes they are measuring properties and determining maximum height and other dimensions in steep wooded terrain, especially on Bald Top Mountain. He said it is difficult on a steep slope to get the most accurate measurement. A drone would provide a more specific measurement.

“We have to verify a property when a house is to be built,” VonBlohn said. “If we had a drone, we could automatically do that without spending hours doing physical measurements.”

He said one home under construction on a slope on Bald Top has a 650-foot driveway that slopes down to the house.

“There’s a lot of guesswork (in measuring),” VonBlohn said. “A drone can be accurate within centimeters.”

He said the height limitations for homes is 35 feet and for garages or accessory buildings, 14 feet. A drone will show the elevation position on the lot. Drones also are useful for mapping clear sight angles for driveways.

Dragano said the police drone would include a beacon spotlight and a speaker to talk to perpetrators.

He said the drones will have specific operators, who must pass a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification test to be licensed.

VonBlohn said the police drone also could be used at fire scenes, but only the licensed operators will operate them. The drones won’t be loaned out.

“It’s definitely not a toy,” he said.


Bald Top Road bids

In other business at the meeting, the supervisors decided to hold a special meeting on Monday at 5 p.m. to award a contract for the next phase of the Bald Top Road project — reconstruction and resurfacing. The supervisors have received four bids and will review and award a contract to one contractor, Township Secretary Carolyn Dragano said.


Aid for zoning officer

The supervisors also approved an agreement with Cooper Township that would allow Mahoning Township police to accompany Jim Dragano, if he requests, when he visits properties in Cooper.

The Mahoning Township zoning officer also covers Cooper Township, under a mutual agreement.


Blizzards Run project

Carolyn Dragano said contractor R.C. Young will begin removing the damaged concrete culvert from Blizzards Run near Bloom Road and Academy Avenue this week or next in the $239,239 project.

The supervisors awarded that contract at their July 27 meeting. Von Blohn said the company will replace the culvert with riprap.

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