Will County sheriff seeks $402,000 for new squad cars
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain email@example.com March 5, 2013 3:12PM
Updated: April 7, 2013 6:27AM
For years, Will County had a program to replace aging sheriff’s police squad cars.
But that program fell by the wayside in recent years as the county’s budget got tighter and tighter.
Republican Caucus Chairman Jim Moustis, R-Frankfort Township, said the money just isn’t there.
“We had rolling stock reserves in the past,” he said. “We just haven’t been able to maintain those reserves like we’d like to. We’re not broke, but we have to be careful on priorities and how the limited resources we have get allocated.”
So when Sheriff Paul Kaupas asked for 16 new vehicles last month, the county board’s finance committee balked and asked for more details.
This month, Kaupas and his staff provided those details as they recommended taking $402,000 for the cars — 14 Ford Interceptors and two Ford Tauruses — out of a special overweight truck fine fund.
At Tuesday’s finance committee Kaupas described his aging fleet of 345 vehicles, which includes 143 patrol cars, transportation buses, undercover cars, SWAT vans etc. The average vehicle has 110,000 miles on it and the average age is eight years old, he told the committee. He said the county had purchased vehicles for the sheriff’s department only twice in the past 10 years.
If the full county board OKs purchasing the cars at its meeting on March 21, about 20 aging cars will come off the street.
Alison Brothen, the sheriff’s finance and budget director, said the older cars are costly to repair and new cars will be safer. Last year’s repair and maintenance budget for the fleet was $361,000, she said.
The sheriff’s overweight truck fine fund has $914,000 in it, said Paul Rafac, the county’s finance director. Using that special fund money helps out the county’s overall budget, Kaupas said.
One of the reasons the county’s finance committee was hinky about buying the squad cars is the fact that the sheriff’s budget was $3 million in the hole last year due to salary and overtime payments.
“Overtime is killing us, and we’re not given any overtime (funding) in our budget,” Kaupas said.
Rafac said the county’s $170 million corporate budget is limited by the amount of revenue.
Finance Committee Chairman Steve Wilhelmi, D-Joliet, said now that funding for squad cars was resolved, the committee needs to schedule a special workshop to talk about the sheriff’s salary and overtime deficit.