Wood County sheriff seeks replacement vehicles

PARKERSBURG – Wood County Sheriff’s Department officials asked county commissioners to consider replacing four aging, high-mileage vehicles in the sheriff’s department fleet.

“We have several vehicles, that due to mechanical problems and higher mileage, we are looking to move out of the fleet. We are looking to replace some, not all of them. We are looking to get rid of six vehicles that have the V8 engines. We would like to replace four of them with the more fuel-efficient V6 vehicles and downsize the fleet by two vehicles. We have some vehicles with more than 200,000 miles on them,” said Chief Law Enforcement Officer Shawn Graham.

T.R. Smith, director of administrative operations, said the list includes some Dodge Durangos with high mileage and maintenance problems, including the car used by the canine unit. Also included is a Dodge Charger that has transmission problems.

Smith said the department would like to purchase three Ford Taurus vehicles and one SUV Pursuit vehicle, all of which are on the state bid contract.

“We hope to be able to reuse the light bars and related emergency police package equipment that should save about $4,000,” Smith said.

Smith said three of the vehicles would be used for road patrol; the larger one would be for transport.

Cost for the Taurus is about $25,000 each and about $30,000 for the SUV.

Officials said there is about $130,000 in the coal severance account now. That account is traditionally the source of funding for police vehicle purchases. County administrator Marty Seufer said there is about $90,000 due in outstanding current payments to be paid out of the coal severance fund.

County Clerk Mark Rhodes said there will be additional payments received of between $70,000-$80,000 that will go into the coal severance account, and one of the payments the county makes, approximately $7,300 monthly, will be paid off in a couple of months.

“Taking two of the vehicles out of the fleet and switching to the V6, which has better fuel efficiency, should help with expenses in the long run,” Graham noted.

“I think we need to see all the numbers, the outstanding loans, the balance in the account, everything so we can make an educated decision,” Commissioner Blair Couch said. “We can pay cash or we can get a loan, but we need to see the numbers.” The commissioners postponed a decision until the budget numbers are provided.

“Thank you for downsizing, and by switching from the V8 to the V6 you will be saving money. Our revenues are flat and it’s starting to show up. I believe we should be moving toward hybrids,” commission President Wayne Dunn said.

Graham provided a report to the commission showing the sheriff’s department has reduced its total fuel usage by more than 800 gallons a month over last year.

“It shows we are trying to keep it down. We are aware that the coal severance is down, and we are doing everything we can to try and keep the costs down and still serve the public,” said Sheriff Ken Merritt.

Wood County officials said an average coal severance allotment of $220,000 was received annually from the state in quarterly installments. That total is estimated to be around $200,000 for this year.

As the result of a new formula, an additional 1 percent of the tax attributable to the severance of coal was paid to the 34 coal-producing counties, which doesn’t include Wood County. Effective July 1, 2013, the percentage climbed to 2 percent and it continues to climb 1 percent each year until it reaches the maximum of 5 percent effective July 1, 2016.

Thirty-four coal-producing counties in West Virginia are now receiving that additional tax revenue. The remaining 25% of the net proceeds are distributed to counties and municipalities, based on their population, without regard to coal having been produced in that county until the change went into effect.