KINGMAN – On behalf of her constituents who called or emailed, Supervisor Jean Bishop thoroughly questioned Mohave County Sheriff Doug Schuster about his vehicle replacement fund and nearly $600,000 he’s requesting for capital expenditures.
After a lengthy discussion, Bishop then motioned and voted to approve two separate items on the Mohave County Board of Supervisors’ consent agenda Monday.
The board unanimously granted the sheriff’s request to remove six of 11 vehicles from the replacement program, and voted 4-1 (Supervisor Buster Johnson opposed) to approve $593,000 in existing fund balances to purchase new equipment and capital items.
Schuster requested $272,224 in patrol purchases, including $87,000 for rifle suppressors to prevent hearing loss among deputies and citizens who might be subjected to close-quarter firing. The rifles record 200 decibels upon firing, and the suppressors take it down to 120 decibels.
He needs $59,000 for dual band radios, $30,000 for radio system repairs, $20,500 for handguns, $18,000 for marksman rifles and $17,000 for a polygraph machine and training.
Other funding included $194,000 for the jail, most of it for a body scanner and guard watch system to keep contraband and weapons from getting into the jail; $78,000 for dispatch; $22,800 for animal control; and $24,400 for waterways.
Schuster wants to keep six patrol vehicles that are due to be replaced, taking them from the replacement plan and adding them to MCSO’s special vehicle program for volunteer deputies.
Bishop said the county has sustained a vehicle replacement fund for several years, and people are wondering how the program works and how the sheriff’s deputies have such nice new vehicles.
Steve Latoski, director of Public Works, said the replacement fund has been carefully managed, which enables the county to recover the cost to replace law enforcement vehicles when they reach five years or 120,000 miles.
Fleet services will maintain the volunteer “posse” vehicles at a cost of $150 a month to be paid from the sheriff’s budget, Latoski said. That will capture 100 percent of depreciation, he said.
“We will pay as necessary for each vehicle,” Schuster said. “Bottom line is I have to have vehicles to put volunteer deputies on the street.”
The sheriff told supervisors he took steps to ensure his department did not exceed its fiscal budget in his first year in office. He requested extra funding to address salary “compression,” or the pay gap between new recruits and officers with years of experience, and was able to correct salary deficiencies to a “moderate degree,” he said.
As for the new purchases, Supervisor Bishop said it seems as if the sheriff is afraid of losing leftover funds if he doesn’t use them.
“I’m just not sure this is the way to go without putting it through the budget process,” Bishop said.
“I agree,” Johnson added. “We should look at this in the budget. I think that $600,000 might be needed just to keep the county afloat.”
Bishop agreed to approve the expenditures as long as all of the grants are used to their full potential. If all the grant money is used, the sheriff would not need all of his requested funding and it could be put back into the general fund, she said.