County buys vehicle, bulletproof vests for sheriff’s office

Published 1:52 pm Friday, June 15, 2012

The Decatur County Board of Commissioners approved several large purchases for the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office, at Tuesday’s regular board meeting.

Sheriff Wiley Griffin told the commissioners Tuesday that his department needs to immediately purchase a patrol vehicle, to replace one that was wrecked in an accident earlier this year. The cost of that $33,000 vehicle is offset by an $18,000 insurance payment received after the crash.

Griffin noted that the remaining $15,000 can be funded from his existing fiscal year 2011-12 budget. He also told commissioners that the department can extend the lifespan of its existing fleet, which will allow him to delay purchasing some new vehicles.

Email newsletter signup

Earlier this year, the county approved the purchase of six new patrol vehicles for $142,000, but Griffin said he could delay that cost until the fiscal year 2012-13 budget.

“We can use a grant that we’ve obtained, for the next year’s budget, that will save us $35,000 [on the cost of the new vehicles],” he said. “I think we can stretch the miles on our existing fleet for a few more months.”

The county unanimously voted to authorize the $15,000 purchase.

Griffin also told the commissioners that his department needs to buy new bulletproof vests, with the cost amounting to $33,000. He noted this was a line item included in the 2011-12 fiscal year budget and had already been approved by the county.

“By law, the expiration date on a bulletproof vest is five years from the time of purchase,” he said. “If you wear it past that date, and an officer is injured, then the county will be held liable.”

Griffin said the county still used expired bulletproof vests, often wearing them as an extra layer of protection. He also noted that a $5,000 grant will help with the purchase. The county unanimously voted to approve the expenditure.

Finally, Griffin said his department needed to spend “between $40,000 and $50,000” on a new fire-alarm system at the Decatur County Jail. He noted that the existing system was destroyed by lightning and was already more than 20 years old. Again, Griffin said it was a liability issue that could harm the county.

“We need to put this fire-alarm system in before we have a fire or disaster that could cost us millions of dollars,” he said.

Commissioner Russell Smith, who is a former prison warden for the Florida Department of Corrections, agreed with Griffin about the severity of the problem.

“It would cost the county a lot of money if he has a fire out there and an inmate is killed,” Smith said. “We have got to get the fire-alarm system working.”

Griffin said he could make the purchase using funds in his regular budget, because there was not money left in the SPLOST fund. County commissioners unanimously approved the purchase.

Also, in a letter to the commissioners, Griffin wrote that his department would be $125,000 under-budget for fiscal year 2011-12, not including the money saved on delaying the purchase of the six vehicles.

“I remain committed to utilizing the tax dollars given us in the most responsible and cost-effective manner possible,” he wrote.