LIMA — The sheriff’s office needs cruisers and tactical vests. The board of elections is about five years away from needing all-new voting machines. It all adds up to additional pressure on Allen County commissioners, who are trying to prioritize capital projects in the midst of ever-tightening budgets.
On Tuesday, officials from the Allen County Sheriff’s Office and the Allen County Board of Elections met with commissioners to make their pitch and emphasize the need. For the sheriff’s office, it’s an immediate need, Sheriff Sam Crish said.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been able to purchase cruisers. We’re getting at the point where we definitely need to start rotating the cruisers we use out on the road every day,” Crish said. “The other item is tactical vests for our SWAT team; they are coming close to expiring or expiring. These are the individuals who are going in serving search warrants in high-risk entries. They are expensive, but they are not the typical vest you wear under your uniform; it’s large tactical vests you wear on the outside.”
Crish’s budget request includes more than $122,000 for cruiser replacements and more than $33,000 for the tactical vests.
In the past, the county had a rotation and replaced as many as four cruisers at a time, with older cars being handed down to K-9 units and detectives. It’s a practice the county has not exercised in recent years with the budget being tight.
“Obviously we have a couple of additional requests also. I think the county really needs to get a handle on these capital requests and start to prioritize those requests,” commissioner Cory Noonan said. “I think we’re going to spend quite a bit of time to get through this, start prioritizing what we need. Obviously your cruisers are going to be at the top end of that list.”
The sheriff’s office will also negotiate beginning next month with all three of its collective bargaining units on a new contract to replace the old contract that expired at the end of last year, Crish said.
“We haven’t really had the opportunity to sit down and talk with them. Any time we do the contracts, the big issues are raises, health insurance, those are always at the top of the list,” Crish said. “I would like to see something given to the employees, granted if there’s money there to do that. Since I’ve been sheriff, we’ve not been able to do something.”
The issue for the Allen County Board of Elections is less time sensitive but will involve significant expense, director Ken Terry said. The current estimate to replace the county’s voting machines is around $1 million, but prices could rise by the time the county needs to make the investment, he said.
“The last time the county had to pay for voting equipment was 1995. In 2005, federal monies bought our current voting system,” Terry said. “It’s reaching its end of life; about five years is about all it has left in it. At that point, we’re going to have to buy new equipment.”