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Farmers markets, helicopters, flight students on county agenda

Licensing requirements for farmers market operators and organizers could change if the county Board of Supervisors approves an ordinance scheduled to be heard Tuesday.

The proposal is intended to streamline the licensing process for certified farmers markets in unincorporated areas. It would require operators and organizers to obtain the solicitor’s license, instead of requiring each non-certified vendor to apply individually, and to submit a list of non-certified vendors to the Sheriff’s Licensing Division. County staff predicts that the changes would promote economic activity and improve public safety.

The Sheriff’s Licensing Division would be responsible for reviewing fees to ensure full cost recovery, although the county estimates no fiscal impact. If any fee changes are required, the Sheriff’s Department would have to return to the supervisors.

Helicopter requested

Also on the agenda is a proposal to authorize buying an eighth helicopter for the San Diego Sheriff's Department Aerial Support to Regional Enforcement Agencies, or ASTREA.

The helicopter, a Bell 407 GX, would cost $4.5 million in the current year, including the purchase and costs of components, parts and maintenance and training contracts. It would be the second Bell 407, which reportedly can support the Fire Life Safety program during fires, in the ASTREA fleet. The county already has two Bell 205 units assigned to the Fire Life Safety program and four MD helicopters.

Funding sources, the county reports, would consist of an operating transfer of $500,000 from the Proposition 172 Special Revenue Fund, $2 million from the Aerial Support to Regional Agencies Trust Fund and a $2 million fund balance component decrease from the Sheriff Capital Project Commitment.

The county says ongoing training, maintenance and operation costs for the helicopter are estimated to be minimal for the first two years and will be absorbed within the Sheriff's Department budget.

Foreign flight students

The board will hear the second reading of an ordinance for the screening of foreign flight students.

An item to consider the ordinance, which was spurred by a July 2012 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, was introduced to the board Feb. 5. The proposal would require flight schools and independent flight instructors based at San Diego County airports to comply with all foreign flight student screening and vetting requirements, including the Alien Flight Student Program and the Student and Exchange Visitors Program.

Area flight schools and independent flight instructors based at airports in the county who train foreign pilots would have to annually certify that they are abiding by all applicable foreign flight student screening requirements. A secondary goal of the ordinance is to raise and maintain awareness of student screening rules by "fostering additional contact between county staff and airport users engaged in flight training," the county staff overview states.

If approved, the result would cost about $5,000 in staff time, with funding coming from the county's Airport Enterprise Fund. No change in net general fund costs or staff years would be necessary, the county said.

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