By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO Sheriff Mike Schiff pitched the grant-funded purchase of four ATVs to legislators on Thursday but got a cool reception.
Even though the federal Dept. of Homeland Security has promised $40,000 for the four-wheelers and related communications equipment, county leaders found the proposal troublesome.
“The county still has to maintain and store these vehicles,” Legislator Cindy Gieger pointed out.
Schiff said there is adequate storage space for the vehicles at the Emergency Training Center near White Lake, but County Manager David Fanslau wasn’t as sure and requested a written storage proposal from Schiff.
Teamsters union rep Sandy Shaddock, who was listening to the presentation, thought the monies would be better used toward solving ongoing radio issues.
“This [the ATV equipment] is basically something we’re going to house more than use,” she predicted.
Schiff shared her desire to utilize the funds for pressing departmental needs but said the federal authorities are focused on homeland security initiatives that otherwise might not be funded.
“A patrol car would be used for homeland security every day,” he offered as an example. “They won’t pay for it.”
The sheriff did say, however, that he could find uses for the four-wheelers, from flood rescues to mountainside searches to crowd control at Bethel Woods events.
But legislators kept returning to the fact that the county will be responsible for the upkeep of these ATVs fuel, tires, oil changes for their useful life.
And with the Sheriff’s Office already possessing two ATVs and one Gator, they weren’t as convinced as Schiff of the necessity of additional ATVs.
“Can taxpayers continue to foot these bills?” wondered Legislator Kathy LaBuda.
“We need to have tactical equipment and manpower to react… in a proactive way,” Schiff replied, saying that if the county determines it can’t afford to maintain the ATVs, “we’ll park them.”
Several legislators, like Gieger and Gene Benson, indicated there was no need for additional ATVs, so Legislator Kitty Vetter asked the sheriff to investigate redefining the terms of the federal grant to cover other, more pressing needs.
“I think we’ve limited it to something this board is not in favor of,” she said.
The Legislature’s Management and Budget Committee then tabled the matter so as to gather more information.