Portage County Commissioners held off approval of four used vehicles for deputies in the Portage County Sheriff’s Office, with one saying it’s too early in the year to start requesting additional funding.
JoAnn Townend, director of internal services, told commissioners that the sheriff’s office requested four used vehicles for detectives in the department. Commissioners held off voting on the request amid questions of where the funding would come from and who would be using the vehicles.
The cost of the request is $49,699, Townend said, because the proposal also calls for four vehicles to be turned in.
Townend said the original email requested the cars for the drug task force, but later, she was told that the vehicles would be driven by detectives, in a letter that named which detectives would be driving them.
Commissioners said they were unsure if both statements were true, and if the cars would be driven by detectives assigned to the task force. Commissioner Tony Badalamenti said he was told that the sheriff wanted different vehicles for the task force because the ones they were driving were becoming too recognizable.
Commissioner Sabrina Christian-Bennett suggested that the cars could be funded through the task force, which has brought in money through seizures. Joe Harris, director of budget and financial management, said the task force has more than $80,000 available.
“We’re only two months into the year,” she said. “Now is not the time to come to the general fund wanting more money. I say no. They need to find that money in their budget. I understand they think that sales and use tax is all their money, but it’s not.”
Commissioners did, however, approve two all-terrain vehicles for the sheriff’s department, which will be purchased from jail commissary funds. The sheriff’s office plans to use the vehicles to train inmates for landscaping jobs. Commissioners agreed to the purchase after clarifying that inmates would not operate the vehicles.
County Administrator Michelle Crombie said the dealership is holding the vehicles until questions can be worked out.
Last year, commissioners eventually agreed to lease vehicles for the sheriff’s department under a “take home cruiser” program. Later, however, officials in the sheriff’s department clarified that the deputies were not actually taking the cars home.
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