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Madison County: Tactical vehicle purchase moves forward

The Madison County Sheriff's Office had a chance to defend their request to purchase a tactical vehicle at the April 24 meeting of the Finance, Ways and Means Committee. Board of Supervisors Vice Chairman Richard O. Bargabos (R -- Smithfield), who chairs the committee, tabled the resolution at the committee's last meeting.

The tabling, he said, was to collect more information on the proposed purchase.

Undersheriff Doug Bailey gave an overview of the department's receipt of grants to equip special operations since the Sheriff's Office received a grant in 2003 from then-Sen. Nancy Larraine Hoffmann's office. In 2005, the Department of Homeland Security also granted funds to the department to enhance crisis intervention efforts.

All these grants were "no-match" grants, Bailey said, meaning they were all 100-percent reimbursed with no local contribution expected.

Sheriff Ronald I. Cary said his office has been working on obtaining a vehicle with which to contain the department's tactical equipment, but other plans, including buying a used ambulance, fell through.

"Then we found this grant and this vehicle," Cary said.

Cary and Bailey expressed frustration about misperceptions of what special weapons and tactics teams do. Cary said it is less likely to be a big media-drawing crisis than it is a single individual in a stand-off at a private home.

In addition to those sorts of occasional incidents, Cary said the Sheriff's Office is responsible for providing security for events such as the recent visit by the Dalai Lama and high-profile court cases.

"At Colgate a couple of weeks ago, that was our people, not the state police," Cary said. "We've been called out by troopers and other police departments to help with high-risk warrants."

Bargabos said he felt other agencies provided protections until those functions were carried out locally.

"There are a lot of things the state police have and can do," Bargabos said. "We're reaching out and if we hadn't have, they would provide that service anyway. We take it on, and now we have to pay for it."

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