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County Commission approves Vehicle Lease Program for Sheriff’s Department

Suzette Lowe
Reporter

Sheriff Ross Mellinger presented the Jackson County Commission with a proposed change in the method of replacing police cruisers.

The Fleet Management Program would allow the sheriff’s department to enter a lease agreement with Enterprise Fleet Management rather than purchasing one cruiser per year which is the current procedure.

Funds for purchasing cruisers come from the capital project line item of $76,000 from the county budget. The remainder of the funds needed are taken from the concealed weapons permit fees.

Mellinger explained that since the West Virginia State Legislature reduced the fee for a permit from $100 to $50, the portion received by the sheriff’s department was lowered from $65 to $25. In addition, any veteran can obtain a permit at no cost.

“With the increase in the cost of Ford Explorers, the only vehicle we can purchase through the state contract, going up around $5,200 and the income from permits lowering,” Mellinger said, “I’d have to ask for the capital project to be raised. I don’t want to do that.”

The proposal put forth by the sheriff would lease each cruiser for a maximum of $680 a month, but negotiations could lower that amount. That amount would include maintenance. Enterprise maintenance providers are required to be used but Mellinger said that Collison Specialists in Ripley is on the list. The city police departments in Ripley and Ravenswood have been using the lease program for the past few years.

“That savings in maintenance, in my opinion, is worth it all,” Mellinger said. “It pays for new tires, oil changes, and other things. We’ve already spent $7,000 this month on repairs to two vehicles.”

When asked by Commissioner Mitch Morrison if the sheriff sees any downside to the management program, Mellinger said simply, “I don’t see it.”

Mellinger went on to say that the ultimate savings in the 10-year plan, with phasing out purchase and maintenance, is projected to be over $300,000. Additionally, the type of vehicle leased will not be limited to one model as it is now.

Commissioner Morrison and Dick Waybright approved the contract subject to minor changes. Commissioner Mike Randolph was not present.

The sheriff expressed his appreciation to the Commission saying, “This is a win-win on a multitude of levels. It will be a shot in the arm in morale for our police force as well.”

County employees also received good news at the Jan. 20 meeting. Commissioners approved an extension of the COVID Cares Act Policy from Jan. 1 to March 31, 2021. Under the federal act, which expired Dec. 31, 2020, anyone who tested positive for the disease or had to quarantine were guaranteed up to 80 hours of sick leave. With the approved extension, the county will cover the cost for the leave for those who qualify.

In other business, Commissioners:

• Reviewed and accepted the written activities report from 911 Director Montana Boggess

• Approve the hiring of part-time paramedic Wesley Hall

• Approve tuition contracts for EMTs Ashli Davis and Katy Pauley to attend paramedic class through Bridge Valley Community and Technical College for the 2021-2022 term

The commission went into closed door executive session to consider 911 personnel issues at 10:12 a.m., with no action taken. The next meeting of the Jackson County Commission will be at 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 27 at the Jackson County Courthouse.