Sheriff’s tech upgrade OK’d
Board revisits request to enhance office’s mobile command vehicle
The Calvert County commissioners had a change of heart and approved, without discussion, a budget adjustment of $76,200 to upgrade the Calvert County Sheriff’s Office’s mobile command vehicle this week.
The “new” business item on Tuesday’s agenda was initially presented to the board in September by Lt. Col. Dave McDowell, who requested, via memo, funds from the “Safety Camera Program” to update the mobile unit’s “obsolete” technology.
According to McDowell’s Sept. 19 memo, the mobile command vehicle enables sheriff’s office
personnel and public safety partners to respond anywhere in the county and allows for the effective management “of critical situations in a self-sustained unified command environment.”
The “Safety Camera Program” term in McDowell’s memo is a reference to the board of commissioners’ “Safety for Students Program,” an effort focused on reducing speeding violations in designated school zones.
Revenue received by the county from that program must first be used to recover the costs of implementing and administering the program. The remaining balance will be used for public safety purposes, as set forth by the commissioners in the county’s annual budget. Currently, there are approximately $600,000 of non-budgeted speed camera revenues collected within the general fund.
In September, Commissioners’ President Evan Slaughenhoupt (R) and Commissioner Pat Nutter (R), a former sheriff’s deputy, expressed opposition to the plan to extract funds from the speed camera revenues collected to finance the effort.
“I cannot support this request and the reasoning [has] nothing to do with the need or the technology,” Slaughenhoupt said, noting the parameters for the use of funds. “These are funds that are not sheriff’s office. These are public safety funds.”
Slaughenhoupt said he previously insisted any future request like that one be coordinated with the public safety director and the state’s attorney’s office.
“Seeing there has been no such coordination, at least not documented, I cannot support this,” Slaughenhoupt added, to which Nutter concurred, both entering a no vote.
Commissioner Mike Hart (R) and Commissioners’ Vice President Tom Hejl (R), a former assistant sheriff, voted in favor of
the effort. However, Commissioner Steve Weems (R) was absent, attending a funeral, leaving the vote split and ultimately denying the request for the budget adjustment.
Slaughenhoupt directed staff to coordinate with the Department of Public Safety before resubmitting the request at a later date. This month, Dowell presented the request with written concurrence from State’s Attorney Laura Martin (R) and Director of Public Safety Jacqueline Vaughan, prompting the board to vote unanimously in favor of the budget adjustment green-lighting the $76,200 mobile command vehicle upgrade.
“A resolution is not required for a budget adjustment of this amount,” County Administrator Terry Shannon told the board, noting the legislative amendment allowing budget adjustments less than $150,000, the public hearing threshold, to proceed without a resolution just went into affect Oct. 1, the start of the state’s fiscal year.
While the board did not discuss its prior apprehension with the sheriff’s office request Tuesday, Slaughenhoupt shared his reasoning for his reversal with The Calvert Recorder afterwards.
“The coordination piece was the only item for me because when the program was established we made sure the funds were not solely for law enforcement. Funds go into public safety, not the sheriff’s office, for use over a wide range of public safety needs,” Slaughenhoupt said, noting the coordination demonstrated that other possible needs would or could be considered.
Capt. David Payne informed the Recorder that the sheriff’s office bought the mobile unit back in 2007 for $748,240 using a grant from the U.S. Justice Department.
The 54,000-pound freight-liner built by MBF Industries has a modular re-mountable aluminum body, three slide-outs, two equipment racks, a walk-
through cab, severn forward workstations, a galley, a conference room with a table to seat eight, additional bench seating, a media officer workstation, an exterior workstation, an electric awning and curbside and rear entrances.
Technology includes a Cisco interoperability package, a 56foot mast system, two 42-inch plasma TVs, one smartboard, one 37-inch LCD screen splitter, a 20-kilowatt generator and emergency light package, exterior graphics, two whiteboards, an intercom system, a digital recorder, a cab computer mount, a radio charger, a weather station and GPS and more.
The captain confirmed the department is not buying a new unit, just upgrading the technology to include new computers, software and communications equipment.
“The preliminary stages have begun,” McDowell told the Recorder, noting the upgrade will be complete before year’s end.