The Douglas County Board of Commissioners removed a business item to write a non-binding Letter of Intent to lease or purchase 35 vehicles for the sheriff’s office after a lengthy debate over lack of funding.

Sheriff Tim Pounds told the BOC during Monday morning’s work session that he was in need of new vehicles because of the daily wear and tear on the current fleet.

Pounds said that Brannen Motor Company and Enterprise Fleet Management had requested a non-binding Letter of Intent to hold the 2021 Black Chevy Tahoes while a decision is made on possibly purchasing them.

“We lost concept of what I was asking in the request (of a Letter of Intent),” Commission Chairman Romona Jackson Jones said. “I know we have not crunched all the numbers. I just ask now that we remove it from the business items.”

The 2021 budget that the BOC passed in December included the purchase of the vehicles to be revisited in March.

“It’s March now, give us a few weeks to clear the books out,” said David Corbin, the county’s financial advisor said during Monday’s virtual meeting. “You all have put in some cost-saving measures that I feel are working.”

Pounds said some of the vehicles in the current fleet have over 200,000 miles and are unsafe for his deputies to continue to drive.

“After two years, it is really and truly unsafe to drive,” Pounds said. “I don’t want my deputies to get hurt. So many of the vehicles are worn out, and they are beginning to be be a danger. I understand money don’t grow on trees. We just want the equipment to serve our citizens.”

The total cost would be a $1.3 million hit on the budget, and Pounds said the sheriff’s office is contributing $500,000 of that.

The finance department said it would cost $25,000 to equip each SUV and about $912 amount each month for maintenance and upkeep.

The BOC said they could possibly lease or purchase less vehicles than the 35 that Pounds is requesting.

Corbin pointed out that the BOC budget is not set up for “major capital purchases” at this time.

“We have to deal with big-ticket items in the future,” Corbin said.

“We have beat this long enough,” Commissioner Tarenia Carthan said about he length of the discussion. “We can’t come up with how we will possibly fund 35 vehicles.”

Traditionally each year, the sheriff requests purchasing new cruisers for the department to replace vehicles that are worn out and no longer safe.

“You drive those 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Pounds said.

The BOC came under fire from citizens for having to furlough firefighters because of budget deficit last year.

In addition, the 2021 budget included a significant raise for newly-elected Probate Judge Christina Peterson, whose budget is up about $400,000 over last year.

During Monday’s meeting, the BOC repeated said that public safety is a priority.

However, they said they wanted to be cautious about committing to an $800,000 price tag on new vehicles because of budget concerns.

“We can continue to kick the cans down the road,” Mitchell said. “Why give a Letter of Intent if we are not going to purchase the cars. I don’t see the funding mechanism in place to do it.”