Commission balks at vehicle equipment costs

PARKERSBURG – Wood County commissioners questioned cost estimates submitted Thursday for equipment on new sheriff’s department vehicles.

“The cost for the equipment on four cars is almost as much as one of the cars,” Commissioner Steve Gainer noted.

The commissioners earlier approved funds from the county’s coal severance account to purchase two of four vehicles requested by the sheriff’s department. The vehicles would replace older, high-mileage cars currently in the fleet. The decision as to which two of the four vehicles requested would be purchased was left to the discretion of the sheriff’s department. Commissioners said they would rather pay cash for the vehicles, which are traditionally financed out of the coal severance funds, then get bank loans for the vehicles, which has been done in the past.

In an earlier memo to the commission, Smith noted the department had decided to purchase a 2014 Ford Interceptor Sedan at a cost of $23,963 and 2014 Ford Interceptor SUV at a cost of $25,518.

According to estimates provided, the cost to purchase and install emergency lighting, radios, consoles, computer mounts, a canine insert and prisoner partition would be $18,700. It was noted the $18,700 was the cost for the specialized equipment and installation for all four vehicles.

The commissioners noted sheriff’s department officials had said earlier they planned to reuse existing light and other equipment from the cars that would no longer be in service.

Smith said the department did plan to reuse whatever was possible, but some of the special police feature packages were contoured specifically to certain vehicles and could not be interchanged, recycled into the new vehicles.

The equipment for the unit for the officer’s vehicle that has the canine totaled $8,715 and included special window tint and an alarm system.

“There has to be an aluminum canine enclosure unit for the backseat to keep the dog from tearing up the vehicle. It’s vehicle specific and there is an alarm system in case the inside of the vehicle gets too hot, it opens the window, so the dog won’t suffocate it the car,” Smith said, noting the dog is in the patrol car for the shift of the officer. Although he’s taken out for breaks, otherwise he only is taken out when needed.

“I would like to see some estimates from a metal shop that might be able to restructure the current equipment to see if they could retrofit it for the new vehicle,” Gainer said.

Smith agreed to bring in cost estimates for possible reuse of existing equipment.

“We try to keep the costs down, while still making sure the cars are as safe as we can,” Smith said.

“This caught our attention. I know you’re trying to do the best you can,” commission President Wayne Dunn said.

The equipment costs for the 2014 Ford Taurus sedan totaled $7,410.

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 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, that 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.