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Sheriff's cars just one item for the end of year spending

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Landscaping, radios among other items

By The Staff

Those 15 shiny, new patrol cars that Levy County Sheriff Johnny Smith purchased last week before the end of the fiscal year are back in Georgia.

Not that he's trying to get the $414,145.20 money back. No, they are back at the dealership so they can be painted with the office's logos and equipped to go on the road in the coming weeks.

The reason the sheriff bought the cars without all the required doo-dads is that he was up against a Sept. 30 deadline to spend the money and have the vehicles in his possession, or it would have to be turned back to the county.

But he was not the only person rushing to get things done.

On Sept. 29, the Emergency Operations Center got a facelift with a landscaping job using materials purchased with end of year money and the help of a crew of state prison inmates to do the work.

Earlier, the Emergency Medical Services got the Levy County Commission's blessing to move $188,313.40 in unspent regular and overtime pay around in her budget to capital equipment outlay. EMS Director Trish Seibold got the commission's approval to move the money and spend it for seven cardiac monitors for the department's vehicles.

Seibold made the request at the Commission's Sept. 8 regular meeting where it was approved 3-2 with Commissioners Nancy Bell of Chiefland and Marsha Drew of Yankeetown dissenting.

Drew wanted more time to check out the equipment being purchased, but Seibold said that could be a problem as the purchase had to be completed and the equipment on hand by the end of the year.

Seibold had told commissioners in an earlier meeting that the equipment would need to be replaced during a discussion about the EMS aging fleet and equipment.

The sheriff's cars were purchased after Smith said he discovered over $400,000 in his budget for the last fiscal year that had been overlooked. The money was set aside to cover costs in case of a hurricane or other emergency. And even though he purchased the vehicles, Smith's office turned back $40,000 from the contingency fund to the county and is relinquishing $70,000 in the new budget that started Oct. 1 that had been set aside for vehicle repairs.

The money is not needed for vehicle repairs because the new vehicles come with one-year warranties.

The sheriff's vehicles meanwhile are back in August, Ga., after being picked up on Tuesday. The exterior will be  marked and light bars and electronic equipment will be installed to make them ready for the road. Once back in Levy County, the Sheriff's Department will do further equipping by stripping equipment from older vehicles and moving it to the new ones, said a Sheriff's Office spokesman.

The older vehicles that are being replaced will be cannibalized for parts as needed for repairs.

According to an August vehicle report for the Sheriff's Office, five vehicles had more than 100,000 miles and one vehicle was close at 99,990 miles. That vehicle was one of five in the patrol division that had between 90,000 and 100,000 miles. Five had between 80,000 and 89,999 miles. The remainder of the 29 vehicles ranged from 29,600 miles and up to 79,999.

The cars purchased by Smith were under a state bid contract.