By LAURA CARRELL
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — The Wapello County Sheriff's Department will now be able to replace both vehicles and officers following two approvals given by the Wapello County Board of Supervisors.
During Tuesday's meeting, the sheriff's department was authorized to complete a lease purchase agreement with US Bank for three new four-wheel-drive vehicles, which Sheriff Mark Miller says they are in dire need of.
"We're not growing the fleet; we're replacing ones that are near to ending their useful life," Miller told the board. "They're all three at about 125,000 miles, and I'm afraid they will soon suffer some serious maintenance issues."
The agreement states that after a $31,535 down payment, the remaining $54,829 will be made in three annual payments at 2.74 percent interest.
With this approval, Miller said they will have the vehicles in town in about six weeks, and they will be on the road as soon as they've been completely equipped.
In addition, the sheriff's department will hire two female corrections officers. The vacancies were created by a resignation and by the promotion of Sasha Buseman to assistant jail administrator.
Miller said that about eight applicants were interviewed and two were chosen based on their qualifications and who would best suit the department.
Again, as with the vehicle purchase, Miller stressed that the department is not growing its force but filling open positions.
In other business, the supervisors received an update about the Crisis Center from Executive Director Cheryl Brown. The Crisis Center in Wapello County is now closed following the state's regionalization of the shelter system, Brown said, and the last person was placed in permanent housing on Monday.
Brown was before the board to request that the annual funding continue, as services will still be offered and housing can still be provided, just not at the Crisis Center shelter as before. She explained that they are able to place people locally, often in motels, even if they do not have a shelter. Wapello County annually provides $23,000 in funding.
Services offered by the Crisis Center are still available 24 hours a day, Brown said, and include assistance with the legal system, work with the Department of Human Resources, counseling and support groups.
"While the shelter as we know it is closed, we're still taking a whole case management approach," she said. "We want to develop options and ways to move people quickly into permanent housing."
The regionalization eliminated local shelters, closing the Ottumwa shelter and forcing people to go to either Oskaloosa or Des Moines.
"We have much higher poverty rates than much of the state, which creates more challenges," she said. "This now means we have no shelters in the bottom two tiers of counties, which is the poverty pocket."
And it's often much more difficult for those living in rural communities to go to an urban area, like Des Moines, even if something as important as a shelter is needed.
"We don't want people to leave the community for services," Brown said. "We don't want to disrupt the natural supports already in place in the rural communities."
• The board approved a resolution to appropriate amended funds for the 2013-14 Fiscal Year.
• They heard a second report from Colonial Life Insurance on coverage for county employees. The current life insurance policy runs through July 30, 2015, so no action was taken at this time. The information will be passed on to the county's insurance specialist for study.