By Matt de Simone
The Botetourt County Board of Supervisors held the monthly meeting last Tuesday at the county administration offices in Daleville. During the meeting, the board approved the order of new county police vehicles due some running at a higher mileage currently.
For FY22 and FY23, 10 sheriff’s vehicles were included in the budget for each of those fiscal years, with no additional vehicles provided as a means of “catch-up” from the FY21 vehicle reduction. Sheriff Matt Ward has identified this current point in time as the need to request additional new vehicles in order provide safer vehicles and to avoid the next price increase, which is imminent.
“The simplicity of it is, when you have 10 to 12 (new vehicles) every year and you go down to two… you’ve got to catch up,” Ward said to the board during the meeting.
Supervisors Chairman Richard Bailey supported Ward’s request, which was underscored by Supervisor Steve Clinton and the rest of the board, who approved Ward’s request.
On Nov. 14, Sheriff Ward sent written communication to the Board of Supervisors on the matter of sheriff’s patrol vehicles and Animal Control vehicles. As a result of that communication, a meeting was held on Nov. 28 as Sheriff Ward and Deputy Sheriff William Bentley met with the county budget subcommittee, county administration, and county staff to discuss a request for vehicles.
In Ward’s written letter to the board, the current inventory of police vehicles contains a larger-than-usual amount of higher mileage vehicles which require expensive repairs and a lack of quality spare vehicles that can be used when the higher mileage vehicles are in for repairs. In addition, there is a lack of vehicles that can be used to transport prisoners.
Finally, deputy staffing is at or near desired/budgetary levels, which means that additional vehicles are required for filled positions, which includes several new positions approved in recent years by the board.
At the meeting, Ward mentioned during his formal request to the board that by June 2023, the Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office is “making strides” to be the only department in the valley that has a full staff. Due to this eventual full staff, the request for new vehicles is necessary.
The current lack of newer vehicles can be traced to FY21 when budget reductions were necessitated in most departments by the anticipated negative impact of COVID-19. This included a reduction in the sheriff’s vehicles from a requested 13 to only two new vehicles.
Bailey spoke about the “long conversations” with Ward and the county budget subcommittee. He mentioned the “compelling case” Ward made.
“We may have got a little behind in the pandemic being conservative with our budget,” Bailey said. “There comes a time when you need to try to catch up and we’re in a position to do so. I agree with the sheriff that’s important to support his team. Good equipment is imperative to that effort. I support his request.”
Bailey noted this decision is based on the results of the county’s “well-managed” finances and the Sheriff’s Office having a full staff in 2023.
In Ward’s formal request submitted to the board, the sheriff stated that the Sheriff’s Office requests one to two Animal Control vehicles in their annual budget request.
“Normally, we can order at least one truck and keep the process (of rotating aging vehicles) moving,” Ward said in the written request. “However, in FY21, the Animal Control vehicle budget was cut due to COVID, and (the Sheriff’s Office) not approved for any trucks. We understood that this needed to be done at the time due to the uncertainty of the situation, so we accepted what we were given and made it work through the pandemic.”
Recently, some of the Animal Control trucks had to run in 2022 with higher mileage. The Sheriff’s Office ordered 10 approved vehicles in the FY23 budget, but according to Ward, “this will not get us where we need to be.”
Ward explored the option of leasing vehicles but felt that it isn’t in the best interest of the Sheriff’s Office or the county. Therefore, he requested 12 new patrol vehicles and one new Animal Control truck (which would cycle out a higher mileage vehicle). The cost for the requested patrol vehicles is $727,603.20 for the patrol vehicles and $49,367.20 for the Animal Control truck.
The cost includes equipment and upfitting costs for each vehicle. Another noted benefit of these purchases is the rotation of several newer and safer vehicles to be added to the inventory of county pool vehicles. The total request for vehicles is $776,970.40.