County news

Asset forfeiture funds will pay for a new building that will be used by the Dickinson County Sheriff’s Department to house seized vehicles and provide a place for detectives to conduct investigations.

County Commissioners approved the building project Thursday, accepting a bid of $253,648.50 from Wildcat Services, Inc., of Chapman to construct a 60x80-ft. steel building to be located on county-owned property at the Transfer Station just off Jeep Road.

The commission also approved a bid of $38,667.80 for option 2, which is the heating and cooling system for the new building.

Sheriff Gareth Hoffman told commissioners he and his officers have talked about the need for a new space for a couple years.

“But this is really the first time we have had the financial support to actually make it happen,” Hoffman explained.

Asset forfeiture funds are “basically seized drug money,” Hoffman explained. “There’s no tax dollars, no budget money going into this. The purpose that drove us this way is to have the benefit of having those four individuals (detectives) offsite and space saving in regards to the new facility.”

Work will start soon on building a new jail, followed by renovation and remodeling of the current Dickinson County Courthouse. As part of that construction, the building currently used for investigations will be demolished.

“That sped up the process a little bit,” Hoffman admitted, explaining why the decision to build was made now.

Vehicle storage

The new building will provide a “ton of additional storage space for vehicles, seized property and stuff like that,” Hoffman said.

“One of the obligations when you seize property is to maintain the property in its current condition until all the court proceedings are done. You don’t want to get it vandalized or broken into. Then we’re on the hook for that,” he said.

“When we do have to return property — which doesn’t happen a lot — we’re obligated to return it in the same condition in which we took it,” the sheriff added. “That building will certainly provide space to maintain those vehicles and items in a much safer secure environment.”

The new space also will eliminate the need to rent space to store seized vehicles.

“I’d guess that for the last 30 years we’ve been paying rent on a building and all it can do is store four or five vehicles,” Hoffman said. “That will, of course, go away and we will no longer need to rent that facility. We won’t be paying rent for another 30 years on a space we don’t own.”

Hoffman told commissioners that the affected detectives, County Administrator Brad Homman and others helped provide input on the layout and design of the new facility.

“It’s no frill, but very practical and well structured,” said Commission Chairman Lynn Peterson.

Commissioner Craig Chamberlin asked if the site has enough space to allow a fenced in area if necessary.

Hoffman said the location does have space to create a secure, fenced area in the future if it becomes necessary. Currently, when extra space is needed, items are stored at the county yard, “which is the only place we’ve got,” he said.

New truck

In an unrelated action, the commission voted to purchase a 2019 Chevy Crew Cab pickup from Holm Automotive in Abilene at a cost not to exceed $35,000.

Hoffman told commissioners his department is “one vehicle short due to a totaled out Tahoe.”

“Because of that, we’ve had to rotate multiple cars through the staff, essentially to replace that as far as patrol goes,” he explained. “At the end of the day, that left us a vehicle short.”

Instead of purchasing a typical police vehicle, Hoffman said they researched the option to add a pickup to the fleet.

“That’s what led us to Holm Automotive, wanting to keep our business local when we’re not talking about police-package specific vehicles,” the sheriff said, explaining he received a bid of $34,786.

Commissioners approved the motion to not exceed more than $35,000 in order to cover any incidentals that might not be covered in the bid.

Hoffman noted the county would receive $11,000 from insurance that will be applied to the purchase of the pickup. Also, any money received through the sale of an older vehicle on the Purple Wave auction site will go toward the purchase.

The insurance money and auction proceeds will help offset the cost and “possibly pay for approximately half” of the vehicle cost, Peterson said.

Contact Kathy Hageman at reporter@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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