"This is yet another asset and tool that the department can utilize to protect the citizens of this county," Sheriff Mike Heaton said at Bob Bowen Ford when the department officially took ownership of the vehicles Tuesday. "The Explorers will replace two older vehicles and will be used mainly as patrol units, especially during bad weather conditions. Matter of fact, we put them to use during this past weekend's winter weather."
Commissioners Charlie Brown and Paul Sinders were impressed with the decal work and equipment installed by Matt Weber, president of SVS Inc.
Weber said his company specializes in outfitting police, fire and emergency response vehicles with the necessary equipment for officers to efficiently do their job.
"There were a lot of other departments interested in these vehicles while they were in the shop," Weber said.
The price tag for the new vehicles wasn't much more than it would be to purchase two regular Crown Victoria police cruisers.
Bob Bowen Sales Representative Charlie Loughmiller worked to get the best deal on the two special service vehicles, which are designed for use by law enforcement.
"It didn't cost much more to purchase an Explorer than to purchase a Crown Vic," Loughmiller said about the cost per vehicle. "Maybe $1,400 more."
Being frugal with taxpayers' money was prevalent throughout the purchasing process.
The $51,000 used to purchase the vehicles was made possible because of a $65,000 surplus in the Clay County Justice Center's meals portion of the sheriff's budget.
While the cost of an inmate's meal is set at $2 per meal, Heaton explained to officials at the time the surplus was returned to the general fund in November that the department was able to save $1.15 per meal, creating the large surplus.
"The Council is dedicated to providing the sheriff's department what they need to do their jobs," Clay County Council President Mike McCullough said, but added he doesn't expect another large windfall in the general fund anytime in the future.
He explained that several funds in the budgeting process for the new jail facility were estimated high because it was unknown what operational funds would be needed. After working with the jail budget during the past two years, McCullough said everyone has a clearer idea of what the operational costs are now and budget accordingly.
Although there may not be a windfall in the future, plans are in place to make sure there are functional patrol vehicles available for deputies.
McCullough explained the council has an ongoing program to replace sheriff's department vehicles "because they really rack up the miles over the course of time."