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Lawrence sheriff's agency to get five new cruisers

Aug. 07, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

IRONTON -- Lawrence County officials took the first step toward buying five new patrol cruisers for the Lawrence County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday.

Sheriff Jeff Lawless said 90 percent of the department's 20 available cruisers have more than 200,000 miles on them and some have more than 300,000 miles.

"It's at a critical stage," he said.

Even if the county is able to buy the five cruisers at the state bid price immediately, it will be five months before the cars would get to Lawrence County and it could take another month to equip them for service, he said.

"It could be six months before we could get them on the road."

The department spent $80,000 on repairs of old cruisers last year and only has $78,000 budgeted this year. Half of that is already spent repairing high-mileage cruisers. One cruiser needs a new transmission and another needs engine work. Those repairs would cost $5,400. Lawless currently is holding off making repairs because of budget concerns.

"It's been two years since we've gotten new cruisers," Lawless said. "We only got two then."

The Lawrence County Board of Commissioners took no action on a proposal by Lawless to spend $28,000 to equip four used cruisers on the road. Huntington Police donated three cruisers with an average of 70,000 miles on them while Hancock County donated one with 105,000 miles.

In other action Tuesday morning, Terry Dolin, a paramedic with the county ambulance service, said the board still had time to put a two-mill Emergency Medical Services ambulance district levy on the ballot. The filing deadline is 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7.

Dolin helped collect the sufficient number of signatures to put a property tax levy that would have generated $1.6 million annually on the ballot about three years ago. The board chose not to put the issue before voters then and took no action on it this month, either. The ambulance service gets about $1 million per year from the half-percent sales tax that generates some $2.5 million annually.

"There is a need for this," Dolin said. "Why wouldn't you put it on the ballot and let people decide?"

Commissioner Les Boggs said he doesn't feel the time is right for the levy.

Commissioner Bill Pratt said he is worried about potential budget cuts that would impact the effectiveness of the Emergency Medical Services district without a separate levy dedicated toward the ambulance service. He said potential cuts could lead to someone's untimely death.

Boggs said the ambulance service is functioning at a high level. He said Pratt was using scare tactics.

"It's reprehensible," Boggs said.

Dolin said the ambulance service needs additional funds to buy new ambulances. An ambulance serving the South Point station developed engine problems and was taken out of service. The district is using a 2001 ambulance with 280,000 miles on it while repairs are made, Dolin said.

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