County creates fund for new armored vehicle

Washington County commissioners on Thursday approved the creation of a fund to accept nearly $200,000 to purchase a new armored vehicle for the sheriff’s office.

During their regular minutes meeting in the assembly room in the courthouse annex, the commissioners voted 3-0 to establish the Homeland Security fund. Contacted after the meeting, Sheriff Larry Mincks said $199,000 in federal funds are being used toward the $254,038 purchase of a new BearCat armored vehicle.

The sheriff’s office applied for the money through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and it will be used “for the protection of the locks and dams,” whether from terrorist attack or some other incident, Mincks said. The vehicle could be dispatched to situations at dams or plants along the Ohio River anywhere in the watershed for which the Corps’ Huntington, W.Va., district is responsible.

The vehicle will also be fire-resistant and usable in situations involving hazardous chemicals.

“In case of an incident at a plant, we would be able to go in and extract somebody,” the sheriff said.

The purchase requires a local match of $55,038.

Mincks said the office is also using $134,414 from its sales tax equipment fund – bolstered by a sizable forfeiture from a drug-trafficking case the Major Crimes Task Force investigated in Morgan County – to buy a refurbished BearCat for use by the office’s Special Response Team.

“It’s going to be replacing the 1973 Peacekeeper armored vehicle,” Mincks said.

The vehicle would be used in situations where an armed suspect is barricaded inside a building.

“It provides protection to our officers. They can actually get up very close to the scene and see what’s going on,” Mincks said.

The sheriff said the vehicles are being worked on now and should arrive in January or February.

In other business, the commissioners voted 3-0 to amend the county’s purchasing procedures so that needed repairs and projects that cost $500 or less can be acted upon immediately without getting multiple price quotes.

Commissioner Tim Irvine said a county department recently faced a situation in which a minor repair to an air conditioning unit needed to be made, but because it cost more than $100, it could not be done without getting multiple quotes. That meant the technician who was already present could not do the work, resulting in a greater cost when someone had to make a separate trip.

“I think it’s time to change the small purchase procurement agreement to a number that makes sense,” Commissioner Ron Feathers said. “It’s just expedient. … It’s easier to do business.”

The commissioners considered raising the price-quote threshold on equipment and supplies to $250, but administrator Paul Cunningham recommended leaving it at $100.

“There are things that I’ve found that by checking it saves money,” he said.

Anything over the $500 and $100 levels would require at least two quotes.

The commissioners also accepted Prosecutor Jim Schneider’s recommendation to hire outside counsel for a lawsuit appealing a workers’ compensation ruling against an additional condition being added for an injury sustained in 2012 by Carol S. Grayson, then an employee of the Washington County Home. Schneider said later that he recommended going with another attorney who has more experience with such cases.