Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Shawnee County Commissioner Kevin Cook Criticizes Sheriff's Office Vehicle Purchase

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Shawnee County Commissioner Kevin Cook Criticizes Sheriff's Office Vehicle Purchase

Article excerpt

A Shawnee County's Sheriff's Office decision to purchase new vehicles in a time when staff numbers are low in the department and at the Emergency Communications Center came under fire Thursday morning.

Commissioner Kevin Cook noted during a county commission meeting that more than $260,000 planned for nine Ford Police Interceptors could better be spent on staff hiring. The county has no power to deny the Sheriff Herman Jones's purchase since he is an elected official.

Including the nine soon-to-be purchased vehicles, the sheriff's office has purchased 41 vehicles at a cost of nearly $1.2 million, Cook noted.

During the budget process this summer, Jones requested additional funds for the sheriff's office, citing the need to purchase new equipment, including computers. The $16.9 million his department received was about $100,000 more than last year's budget, but he said it wasn't enough to cover all expenses.

The commission denied the request for additional funds and directed the sheriff to prioritize hiring over equipment expenses.

"The sheriff has the ability to spend more than $200,000 on new cars," Cook said. "That's money that could be spent on additional staff."

Commissioner Bob Archer seconded Cook's comments.

Captain Lance Royer told the commission many of the department's vehicles had many miles and were in need of replacement. He didn't respond to Cook's criticism.

Calls to the Sheriff's Office were not returned Thursday.

Also at the meeting, a plan to prioritize pedestrian and bikeways in future county infrastructure projects dubbed "Complete Streets" drew a lengthy discussion from commissioners. The resolution, nearly identical to one the city of Topeka passed years ago that kicked off the bike and pedestrian master plans, directed the county public works department to make accommodations for sidewalks, bike lanes, accessibly and other factors in future road construction. …

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