The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

County commission OK's 4-wheel drive for sheriff's department


August 20, 2020

In a brief meeting Tuesday, Wahkiakum County's board of commissioners approved purchase of two new patrol vehicles for the sheriff's office and acted on other business.

Commissioners had some discussion about replacing the patrol vehicles before voting to approve the purchase, for the purchase price would be higher than the replacement funds being collected to pay for them.

The county has its Equipment Rental and Replacement (ER&R) fund, which regularly collects money from various departments to save enough for equipment replacement costs.

Public Works Director Chuck Beyer said the requested new vehicles, 2021 Chevorlet Tahoes, would cost $50,554.51 apiece. The ER&R fund has so far collected only $38,404.46 and $34,983.13 the two vehicles to be replaced.

The difference in cost would be rolled into the ER&R assessment for the new vehicles, officials said.

For safety and maintenance reasons, county officials have targeted replacement of patrol vehicles around 120,000 miles. The present vehicles have 106,000 and 109,000 miles. They would be close to the 120,000 figure in 2021.

Sheriff Mark Howie commented that if the county commission waited another year to replace them, the mileage would be close to 150,000.

Commissioner Mike Backman expressed hesitation about replacing the vehicles as proposed.

Noting that 4-wheel drive Tahoes are more expensive than other available patrol models, he said, "We're not buying the most reasonable vehicles. You don't have all the money in ER&R"

Sheriff Mark Howie and Undersheriff Gary Howell responded. Howell pointed out that the Public Works Department had just recently acknowledged that ER&R rates weren't collecting sufficient funds to replace equipment over all departments. They said officers are having to respond to more incidents up logging roads which are very hard on standard vehicles, even if they have all-wheel drive. Officers also need the 4-wheel drives to respond to search and rescue calls; there were five in the past year, he said.

Commissioner Gene Strong, a retired sheriff, moved to approve the purchase of two Tahoes in the 2021 county budget.

"I think the need is there to look at both vehicles," he said. "I understand the need for 4-wheel drive."

Backman seconded the motion, and it passed 3-0.

In other business Cooperative Extension Agent Carrie Backman announced the start of the county's virtual fair (see other story in this issue), and the board approved a $2,485 change order to a flooring contract at Johnson Park in Rosburg to encapsulate some floor tiles that likely contain asbestos.


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