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Fiscal court approves new trucks for EMA

STANFORD — The Lincoln County Emergency Management Agency will soon be getting some new rides.

Don Gilliam, Emergency Management Director, approached the Lincoln County Fiscal Court with a request for two new three-quarter-ton trucks and magistrates David Faulkner, Lonnie Pruitt, Jeff Ruckel and Joe Stanley voted unanimously to approve entering into a 5-year lease agreement with Enterprise for two Ford F-250 trucks.

“The vehicles we currently have, they’re doing fine. But they are high mileage. They are going to need some work. They are going to need tires,” said Gilliam. “My truck’s got 197,000 miles and her’s (Trish O’Quin – deputy director) got 146,000.”

Lincoln County Judge Executive Jim W. Adams Jr. agreed that Emergency Management needed vehicles to replace their current 10-year-old trucks.

“Donnie’s department is in great need of an upgrade in vehicles. They are by far the shabbiest vehicle-wise when you show up to a scene,” he said jokingly. “No, they are in need of newer vehicles. We’ve looked at purchase and then we’ve looked at lease.”

Gilliam told the court that, at first, he had been looking at a 5-year-old truck but that the asking price was from $25,000 to $30,000 for a truck. That’s when the lease option was brought to the table.

“We looked at numerous vehicles in hopes of being able to replace what we had and found out pretty quickly that we didn’t have enough money or that the vehicles were going to cost so much that it just made sense to go ahead and look at new ones because it was within $10,000 of a new vehicle,” he said. “A leasing program was brought to my attention. We looked at it and priced five vehicles. The three-quarter-ton gas Ford crew cab 4WD comes completely equipped with emergency equipment and bracket package (lettering). It was the lowest at $600.06 a month per vehicle on a 5-year lease. That is the way I would go.”

Gilliam noted that a truck could be purchased for a cheaper price but that it would not include emergency equipment and bracketing, which would run the price up considerably.

Jeff Ruckel, Magistrate District 3, asked if there was a mileage cap on the lease and Gilliam said there was not.

“The cost is based on 15,000 (miles) a year, and that is probably less than what we use a year per vehicle, but there is no cap,” Gilliam answered. “We will be responsible for $6,000 at the end of the lease if we want to purchase the truck. There is also a $395 lease termination fee if we should decide to end the lease and purchase the truck.”

County Attorney Daryl Day said being able to purchase 5-year-old trucks for $6,000 apiece at the end of the lease was a good deal.

“Trucks like that are worth a lot more than $6,000,” he said. “I think it’s actually $6,700 to purchase. But you couldn’t buy a truck like that for that money.”

David Faulkner made the motion to enter into the 5-year lease agreement with Enterprise for the two F-250 trucks for $600.06 month and the vote passed 4-0.

Sheriff’s Office asks for two more deputies

While the court took action on Gilliam’s request for two new vehicles, it did not move on Sheriff Curt Folger’s request for hiring two new deputies.

“I’m asking you all, this court, to fund two more deputies for the protection of our citizens and for the protection of some of our deputies,” Folger said while addressing the court. “As you’ve noticed on TV, this world’s gotten a whole lot crazier.”

To convey the need for more deputies, Folger presented call data from the last four years.

“This call volume from 2016 to date is documented through 911, that’s not including calls that come into the Sheriff’s Office nor calls that come on our personal phones,” he began. “In 2016, our total documented calls was 9,306. In 2017, our calls went up to 13,834 calls, which is a third more calls than 2016. 2018 was basically pretty close to the same as 2017. It went down 500 to 13,312. In 2019, right now we’re at 11,988 calls. So I look for that to be right at 13,000 or 14,000 calls for the year 2019.”

Folger’s office currently has seven full-time officers, including himself. That is the same number of full-time officers as in 2016. The department also has 10 Special Deputies who do not get paid but drive marked cars. They work at least 10 hours a week serving civil papers, controlling accident scenes and helping deputies.

“We’re wanting to hire two more guys for the protection and for the service of the county. We’d like to have a full-time detective to work on our drug issue and our criminal issues also. Where it is now, we’re all trying to be detectives. It takes away from the detective part of an investigation when you have to go on different calls. It stretches us out,” said Folger.

“You all know that we’ve got six guys that are paid. We cover 350 square miles in this county. There’s a lot of parts of this county that we don’t really get to … We don’t get to be seen as much as we should. Being seen stops a lot of the problems. It don’t stop it all but it does stop a lot of the problems. Each of you represent a district in the county and we want to be able to serve the people that you represent a whole lot better than we have been the last two or three years.”

Day, who as County Attorney often deals with the Sheriff’s Office, pointedly asked Folger about the hiring of a full-time detective.

“I don’t have a vote in this, but I’m going to ask you a question,” he said. “If they do this and they fund a detective, when somebody comes in my office … We’ve been instructed by the Commonwealth Attorney’s office that on a felony case they have to have a police report. If we refer it to them, is that detective going to investigate it? Are we going to send them to your office and the secretary is going to type up what they have to say and send it back with the police report? Is that detective going to investigate every felony case?”

Folger answered in the affirmative saying, “Every felony case.”

“I want it on record,” said Day, “because you know the Commonwealth Attorney’s office put pressure on me and that’s not what’s happening. I’m getting a police report back that Kathy Caudill’s typed up. And that’s not a police report.”

Folger said that, on felony cases, that “shouldn’t be happening.” However, Day said that “99 percent of the time that is what’s happening.”

“A lot of it’s due to the guys not having the time to do their investigation on their cases,” said Folger.

“I want it known, if they do vote on it, that that’s going to be the procedure,” Day said. “If I get a paper back that Kathy’s typed up, I’m going to send back a note that says this is not good enough and will not be prosecuted until the detective sends me an investigation signed off by him or her. I’ve been taking a lot of heat on sending stuff to them that has not been investigated.”

If approved, the process of hiring two new deputies would begin in the new fiscal year, January 2020. Folger said it could be February or March before they found someone for the positions. 

The cost of hiring two new deputies would be $113,000 annually. The cost does not include cars.

When asked by Adams if the Sheriff’s Office wanted the fiscal court to fund the entire cost, Folger answered yes.

But there would be no motion or vote on Folger’s request.

“I think we need to look at this before you submit the budget (2020),” said Faulkner, Magistrate District 1. “We want to have a little time to look over the numbers.”

Adams asked the court if it wished to discuss the request later and each member said yes. The item was set aside until it’s next meeting, Dec. 17.

Certified signatures on recallable tax petition

Lincoln County Clerk George O. “Sonny” Spoonamore IV went before the court to announce that the required 956 signatures on the petition circulated in the county to have the recallable nickel tax approved by the Lincoln County School Board placed on a ballot had been certified.

Spoonamore’s statement prompted a quick response from Faulkner.

“I’ve had a couple calls about the fact that the superintendent picked up the petition, and I understand that it’s open records. It’s perfectly legal. The big concern here is retribution. What’s going to happen? Is there going to be some type of retribution against the people that signed that petition? That’s ridiculous. That’s freedom of speech,” he said. “I think if you get into checking, other than your legal authority and responsibility to make sure to verify those as legal, there’s no other reason that anyone needs to know who signs that opinion.”

“If you fire someone for signing that petition and they can prove that is the primary reason that you terminated someone, the school system will have a lot of problems because there’s a whole lot of rules on the book about that you can not fire someone for political reasons. We know that from running for office,” Day said. “If someone signs that petition and otherwise they’ve got an exemplary employment record and they fire them, that courthouse is going to be filled up with people filing lawsuits against them and they should.”

Spoonamore pointed out that all the signatures on the petition may not be people wanting to get rid of the tax levy.

“Just because they signed that petition does not mean they’re for it,” he said. “It just means that they want people to have a chance to vote on it.”

In other business

• Approved one-time pay increase of $30 for employees, an annual holiday increase.

• Approved pay rate increase for Lincoln County Historian Irene Jaggers. Jaggers, who oversees the old records in the vault at the courthouse, currently gets a $200/month stipend. A $10/hour rate for Jaggers was approved. Not to exceed 20 hours a week.

• Approved the hiring of Annette Spangler as Fiscal Court Clerk. Her pay is $600/month or $7,200/year.

• Approved the payment to the Lincoln County Clerk of $15 for title of vehicle.

• Approved the payment of $800 to both Angela Napier and Norma Atwood for cleaning the judicial center.

• Approved payment of invoice in amount of $22,574.66 to Arrow Contracting for reconstruction on Rebecca Newland House for October.

• Appointed Sheree Gilliam to the Lincoln County Sanitation Board.