The Ottumwa Courier

August 30, 2013

Vehicles, technology on supervisors' agenda

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — The Wapello County Sheriff's department is in the market for some new vehicles, but they're not thinking in terms of the traditional patrol car.

Any such purchase will require a public hearing, and the county supervisors could set the date for it at their meeting Tuesday. Sheriff Mark Miller said he would like to purchase three new SUVs for the department.

The selection of SUVs over the traditional cars comes down to just a couple of points. The biggest is winter. It's hard to think about snow and ice when late August temperatures are almost 20 degrees above normal, but winter poses unique challenges for law enforcement. When a call comes in, deputies don't have the option of waiting for snow to melt before responding.

“We want to purchase three SUVs,” Miller said. “We just get around so much better in winter in them. The patrol cars just don't have enough clearance.”

The traditional police car package includes rear-wheel drive, which Miller said is better in some circumstances. And the cars are generally faster if speed is required. But the combination of four-wheel drive and a higher clearance means an SUV is better suited for work in rural areas.

Miller hopes to get approval for the new vehicles and have them purchased by November. That would allow the department to begin getting equipment swapped out before winter arrives in force. The vehicles could go into service late this year.

Supervisors also have a budget amendment scheduled. Supervisor Steve Siegel said the amendment is related to the county's new IT director, who starts Tuesday.

“We have the money in the various departments for IT, computers, Internet,” he said, but it needs to be consolidated as the county moves to a centralized approach to technology.

The county's goal in establishing a new IT position is to save money. A recent study for Wapello County showed there are savings possible if the county eliminates duplications and coordinates purchases. Those are issues a centralized office should solve.

The supervisors' meeting is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in the third-floor boardroom at the Wapello County Courthouse.