County backs down on sheriff vehicle cuts
Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario has persuaded county commissioners to restore some initial budget cuts to the sheriff’s motor pool request, arguing that the plan would extend the life of some patrol vehicles to the point that they would be unsafe.
Among the county’s budget cutting measures to make up for a projected $17 million shortfall next year in revenue tied to natural gas production was the sheriff’s motor pool.
Commissioners had cut six of the sheriff’s eight vehicles replacement requests. Three of these were patrol vehicles and three were vehicles used for civil procedures.
Commissioners unanimously approved on Monday putting the three patrol vehicle replacements back into the 2017 budget, adding an estimated $225,000. Vallario said that $390,000 had been removed from spending for new sheriff’s office vehicles.
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said the initial decision was based on the county’s point system for vehicle replacement, and the sheriff’s requests had not reached the replacement limit.
The point system may need to change for emergency vehicles, “given the way we operate them,” said Vallario.
These vehicles see high speeds, high braking, “and they’re on the road 24/7” in all sorts of conditions, he said.
One of these vehicles has 131,000 miles on it. To defer that another year could mean the vehicle would have 160,000 to 180,000 miles on it, said Vallario.
“That’s concerning to me, and it’s concerning to the guy driving that vehicle,” the sheriff said.
Putting off these replacements would also have a stacking effect. So next year, instead of having five or six vehicles to replace, 14 or 15 might be at that point, said the sheriff.
The county should consider a five-year plan for a consistent budgeting practice, he said.
“Otherwise we’re going to be in the boat where we’re sitting here arguing, I need 20-something vehicles and the money isn’t in the budget to do it,” Vallario said.
“We’re at the point in our revenue cycle,” Jankovsky said, “that if a vehicle has life in it or we can get an extra couple years out of it, we need to be frugal and look at that. At the same time the safety and operation of your department is important to us. And we want good law enforcement in this county.”
Jankovsky suggested replacing the three patrol vehicles while allowing the sheriff’s civil vehicles to add miles before they are replaced.
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