Wood County Commission OKs funds for vehicles

PARKERSBURG – Wood County commissioners approved funding for two new sheriff’s department vehicles to replace older, high-mileage cars currently in the fleet.

The first two of the four vehicles sheriff’s department officials wanted to replace will be left to the discretion of the sheriff’s department.

Commissioners said they would rather pay cash for the vehicles, which are traditionally financed out of the county coal severance funds, than get bank loans for the vehicles, which has been done in the past. “They are not in dire need of these vehicles,” Commissioner Steve Gainer noted. “It may come to the point where the administrative people won’t all have cars.”

“Why don’t we go ahead and buy two now with cash that’s available and as the funds come into the coal severance account, we can discuss the purchase of the other two then,” Commissioner Blair Couch said.

“It’s just a question of time,” commission President Wayne Dunn said. “The savings in gas they are seeing should help some as well.”

Sheriff’s department officials earlier asked the commission to consider replacing four aging, high-mileage vehicles, proposing to eliminate two vehicles from the fleet altogether and buy four replacements. The new vehicles are to be V6 to replace the higher fuel-using V8 vehicles now in service.

Chief Law Enforcement Officer Shawn Graham told commissioners earlier some of the vehicles have more than 200,000 miles on them. T.R. Smith, director of administrative operations, said the department is experiencing maintenance problems with some of the older, high-mileage vehicles that could lead to major expenses. The department proposed purchasing three Ford Taurus vehicles and one SUV Pursuit vehicle, all of which are currently on the state bid contract. List cost for the Taurus is about $25,000 each and about $30,000 for the SUV.

Officials said there is about $130,000 in the coal severance account now. That account is traditionally the source of funding for police vehicle purchases. There is about $90,000 due in outstanding current payments to be taken from the fund.

County Clerk Mark Rhodes said there will be additional payments received of between $70,000-$80,000 to go into the coal severance account, and one of the payments the county makes, approximately $7,300 monthly, will be paid off in a couple of months.

Wood County officials said an average coal severance allotment of $220,000 was received annually from the state in quarterly installments. That total is estimated to be around $200,000 this year.

As the result of a new formula, an additional 1 percent of the tax attributable to the severance of coal was paid to the 34 coal-producing counties, which doesn’t include Wood County. Effective July 1, 2013, that percentage climbed to 2 percent and it continues to climb 1 percent each year until it reaches the maximum of 5 percent effective July 1, 2016.

Thirty-four coal-producing counties in West Virginia are now receiving that additional tax revenue. The remaining 25% of the net proceeds are distributed to counties and municipalities, based on their population, without regard to coal having been produced in that county until the change went into effect.