The Madison County Sheriff’s will soon get eight new vehicles — five Dodge Chargers and three Ford F-150s.
Madison County commissioners unanimously approved the purchases Feb. 10. The vehicle purchases were included as part of the six-year special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) approved by voters in November.
The commissioners agreed to use a portion of the county’s cash reserves to go ahead and buy the vehicles at a total cost of approximately $250,000, with the SPLOST money going back to the reserve fund as it’s collected over the next several years.
Commissioner John Pethel said he didn’t feel comfortable “spending what we don’t have.” But he noted that the board already approved such arrangements with other departments, so he didn’t feel the sheriff’s office could be denied the purchase.
The board recently approved the purchase of two ambulances, which will also be paid for from reserves, with SPLOST money to gradually reimburse that fund.
Commissioner Mike Youngblood said the county is not purchasing anything with money it doesn’t have. He noted that the county has enough in reserves to cover the emergency vehicle purchases until SPLOST money is collected.
“We’re not going to the bank to borrow money for this,” he said. “We’re fortunate to have the money to do it.”
Also Monday, Sheriff Thomas said his office is still in need of more space for its investigators. But he said he’s backing off a potential rental agreement with the city of Danielsville, noting that upgrades on the building they were discussing would cost around $10,000.
“It’s not worth that kind of money for something the county doesn’t own,” he said.
The sheriff said he will continue to look for office space.
CAMPAIGN DISCLOSURE SERVICE
In other matters, the board approved a two-year contract with Sivad Business Solutions for management of campaign disclosure data for the county. The business will provide website access for county candidates to file their campaign contribution reports to the state and offer notification to candidates when those reports are due. The website will also be accessible to citizens seeking information on state filings by local candidates.
The service will cost $2,500 per year, with a $500 startup cost. The board approved the contract by a 3-2 vote, with commissioners Pete Bond, Mike Youngblood and Jim Escoe voting “Yes” and Stanley Thomas and John Pethel voting “No.”
Commissioner Thomas said he felt the service seems primarily geared toward helping candidates keep up with something they should handle themselves. He said he didn’t see enough public benefit to warrant $2,500 a year or potentially $10,000 over four years. He said the state has been cutting back on what disclosures it requires from local candidates and that citizens can access the information through the state.
JUDGE DENIED INSURANCE
The board voted 3-2 to deny Northern Judicial Circuit Juvenile Court Judge Warren Caswell health insurance coverage through the county employee plan. Escoe, Youngblood and Thomas voted not to allow coverage, while Bond and Pethel voted against the denial.
The group recently approved coverage for Christopher NeSmith, the circuit’s primary juvenile court judge. According to Caswell, he is classified as working one day a week, while NeSmith is paid for working four days a week. He said grant money for the judges is allocated that way, but he added that he actually works 15 to 30 hours a week as a judge.
Commissioner Thomas said there are a number of county employees who work the same number of hours as Caswell or more and are not eligible for county health insurance.