MORRIS --The Stevens County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday to purchase a new squad car for the Sheriff's Department and table a proposal from Sheriff Jason Dingman to purchase a forfeited pickup truck until after a discussion with the city of Hancock about their law enforcement needs.
Since the summer of 2011, the Sheriff's Department has been short one squad car. After a crash totaled one squad car, former Sheriff Randy Willis elected to use his personal vehicle rather than replacing the car, said Dingman.
When a vacant deputy sheriff position is filled, the department will be short a vehicle for Dingman to drive. At Tuesday's meeting, Dingman proposed purchasing a 2011 pickup truck that has been forfeited from a Donnelly man with five DWI convictions using money from the sheriff's forfeiture fund – a move that would pay for a vehicle without using county tax dollars, Dingman explained.
As part of the forfeiture agreement, the county will have to pay about $16,000 on the car – $15,000 for an existing bank loan and $1,000 to the defendant for car payments – out of the forfeiture account whether the county decides to keep the vehicle or sell it at an auction.
If the vehicle is sold, the county will still have to pay $16,000 to the bank and defendant, and will have to split the remaining proceeds with the county attorney and the state, Dingman said.
Commissioners Donny Wohlers and Phil Gausman asked whether it sent the right message to have the vehicle driven by law enforcement in the county.
“This guy obviously lost his vehicle and it would be kind of a slap in the face to him to have it driving around. He did the crime, he paid for it,” said Wohlers.
“That's why the forfeiture statutes were written, I think,” responded Dingman. “We don't take somebody's vehicle the first time they get a DWI. I know a lot of people personally that have one DWI and they've learned from it – they don't have another one. This guy didn't learn the first time or the second time or the third time or the fourth time.”
“I agree that some people don't learn, but the county did this once before – drove an impounded vehicle around – and I think I agree with [Commissioner Wohlers],” said Commissioner Phil Gausman. “I realize some police departments actually put signs on the side that say, 'This vehicle comes complementary of a drug bust' or something. I don't like it.”
Gausman also said he thought the cost of driving a pickup truck would be too high and it would better to sell the truck and buy a vehicle with better gas mileage.
Commissioner Ron Staples suggested waiting on the proposal until after a meeting with Hancock on March 13 to discuss law enforcement services – “There may be a car there that might fit into this mix too,” Staples said.
“I don't have my heart set on driving this truck. It's just not really going to cost the county anything because it's coming out of our forfeiture fund,” Dingman said.
After some discussion, the board voted to table the proposal until after the discussion with Hancock.
The board did authorize Dingman to move forward with the purchase of a new squad car from Valu Ford in Morris as part of the department's regular replacement schedule for a total of about $33,000. The replacement was already authorized in the 2013 budget and will replace a 2009 car with 110,000 miles.
Although the base price for the vehicle is slightly higher when bought locally, Dingman and the board agreed it was worth the extra expense to support a local business.