Wright County Sheriff’s Office gets military vehicle

The reality of being a law enforcement officer is that one of the occupational hazards is that when an emergency call comes in, the officers can be heading directly into harm’s way.

But, thanks to a happy coincidence and good timing, Wright County has an impressive vehicle at its disposal to help deal with emergency situations.

Late last year, Wright County Sheriff Joe Hagerty approved an agreement to receive a MRAP (Mine Resistant Ambush Protection) vehicle at no cost to the county.

When fully equipped, the 2008 vehicle had a value of approximately $650,000.

While most of the electronics were taken out of the vehicle, it still carries a price tag well in excess of $100,000.

Hagerty said the county was lucky to procure one of these vehicles being cycled out for newer models.

“Being that we have a nuclear plant in Wright County, we’re often the first at the trough when it comes to getting grant funding or opportunities like this to get an MRAP vehicle,” Hagerty said. “Our emergency management team has been looking to get a vehicle like this to use when officers are approaching a potentially bad situation. We’ve had instances in which deputies and other law enforcement officers have found themselves in the line of the fire. This vehicle will allow us to drive right up to the scene without fear of deputies being potentially shot or killed.”

Lt. Todd Hoffman said the county has worked with the federal government often for funding because the nuclear power plant in Monticello is viewed as a national asset and, in turn, a potential terrorist target.

As a result, the county has received other tools for law enforcement, including things like night vision goggles and protective clothing like Kevlar vests. The MRAP is a big-ticket item, but isn’t intended to display a show of force by the sheriff’s department.

“It’s huge vehicle, but it isn’t an offensive weapon,” Hoffman said. “The main purpose will be to get our emergency response team – our S.W.A.T. team – to the location we’re called to in a safe manner. We’ve had a few situations where this vehicle would have come in handy. It’s most for safety purposes that to look like an armed invasion.” The cost of transporting the vehicle from Texas and the ongoing maintenance to get the MRAP retrofitted to the county’s needs – there are miles of wiring that remain inside from the equipment the Army salvaged before giving it to the county – is being paid for through drug seizure revenue.

“This has been a great thing for us,” Hagerty said. “We get a vehicle that would have probably cost us $100,000 or more, which means we likely wouldn’t have got one. Because we got it from the Army and have the funds in our drug forfeiture fund, we were able to get one at no cost to the taxpayers of the county and gave us a law enforcement tool that could be invaluable in the event we have a situation that it is needed. It could be a life-saver. To get something like that at no cost to the citizens of Wright County was a win-win for us.”

In items on the abbreviated New Year’s Eve meeting of the county board, the commissioners:
• Approved continuing the county’s Volunteer Leave Without Pay Program for 2014. Established in the mid-1990s when the county was looking for ways to save budget dollars, the program allows employees, with the permission of department heads, to take between four and 160 hours of work time off during the summer months without pay. The program has saved the county hundreds of thousands of dollars since its inception and is only authorized for those departments that have slow periods during the summer months.
• Appointed Jerry Durst to the Wright County Parks Commission, representing Commissioner Charlie Borrell and the county board’s Fifth District. Durst was appointed to a three-year term.
• Referred discussion of a surveyor’s department request proposing the hiring of a temporary survey technician and staffing issues within the department to the next personnel committee meeting.
• Approved the November revenue/expenditure guidelines. Auditor/Treasurer Bob Hiivala stated both the revenue and expenditure sides of the county’s 2013 budget were in line with where they should be at this time of the year to show a positive fund balance, despite the county board already transferring $1 million into the county’s special projects fund in November.
• Authorized signatures on a resolution of final acceptance of the county 2012 highway overlay projects with Knife River Corp. of Sauk Rapids and authorized the final payment of $25,005 to close out the contract.
• Approved payment on a claim from the consulting firm of Madden, Galanter & Hansen in the amount of $995 for work done on union negotiations for the county board during November.

Freelancer John Holler covers government and the Wright County Board of Commissioners.