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  • Writer's pictureCharlene Sims, Journal staff

McCullough: Vehicle dispute indicative of deeper issues

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

By Charlene Sims, Journal staff

MOUND CITY – On Tuesday, Sept. 5, Commissioner Jim Johnson brought up an issue that he was concerned about at last week’s meeting. Sheriff Kevin Friend had given the health department a pickup truck with a crew cab that his department had replaced because of the miles on it.

Johnson brought this up at last week’s meeting because he had received an email from the health department Director Amanda Snyder asking permission to accept the vehicle. Johnson was against the gift and asked about the county policy regarding departments giving their old vehicles to other Linn County departments.

It seemed to be settled when no vote was taken on it and County Counselor Gary Thompson told the commissioners that the sheriff could do what he wanted to with the vehicles in his department. Included in that discussion was precedents where vehicles had been transferred before to the Information Technology (IT) department and the County Appraiser’s office.

Friend said that the vehicle being transferred to the health department, a 2016 Dodge four-door pickup, had a trade-in value of $2,000 but was worth more than that.

Earlier this summer, Snyder told the commissioners that the health department needed a vehicle to tow their enclosed trailer to events they attend around the county. Otherwise they had to depend on vehicles from other departments to tow the trailer.

At that earlier meeting, Commissioner Jason Hightower and Johnson said that they would not approve the purchase of a $40,000 truck for the health department.

This week, Johnson started out the questioning early in the meeting during some other business issues. He asked why the health department had not been attending meetings and why no decision had been made on the vehicle. The answers to these questions came at the end of the commission meeting before adjournment when County Clerk David Lamb reminded them of the uncompleted discussion.

Commission Chair Danny McCullough asked Lamb if motions had been made in the past allowing departments to accept vehicles.

Lamb said he did not remember any but he wasn’t sure.

Commissioner Jason Hightower asked Johnson why he was not in favor of the health department receiving the vehicle.

Johnson said he did not think it would be a cost saving for the county. He said that from what he recalled the health department only had about 10,000 miles of mileage in the last couple of years that included attending conferences and trainings. He said that the vehicle would have over $3,000 in insurance for five years, and it was going up this year.

Hightower asked what the county paid in mileage. Lamb said it was the state rate at around 55-cents to 58-cents range. Hightower said 10,000 miles would be $5,500 versus $3,000.

“Sounds like a cost savings to me,” said Hightower.

Johnson said that gas and wear and tear on the vehicle needed to be included in the operating cost.

“I think it’s a benefit to them in that we are not spending $40,000 on a new truck,” said Hightower. “So I am in favor of them getting the truck from the sheriff’s office.”

Commission Chair Danny McCullough said he was in favor of it too.

“I feel like that they have that trailer that has equipment in it,” said McCullough. “I would like to see them take it out more.”

McCullough said he did not like to take his vehicle on other business and asked Johnson if he would like to take his.

Johnson replied, “I do it everyday.”

Johnson asked why the health department was not coming to the commission meeting and showing their numbers or anything. It’s been quite a while since they have been to a meeting, said Johnson. Every other department head has to come.

McCullough said he had told her not come this week. He said that he thought it would have caused issues if that had occurred, so he told her not to come.

They feel like that they are getting picked on, McCullough told Johnson. He added that he told her it wasn’t necessary and that he would speak for her, adding that he thought that had prevented an public issue.

Johnson said he didn’t see it that way, adding he thought that the other two commissioners approved a vehicle that might not be able to pull a trailer. He asked how many trailers the health department has.

McCullough said he assumed they only had one.

Johnson told McCullough he should check into that and report back next week.

McCullough said that was the reason that he told Snyder not to come to the meeting, and Hightower agreed.

Every department in the county probably feels the same way, said McCullough.

He said county employees should be able to rely on support by the commission and commissioners shouldn’t be here poking them at every thing that they do. The commission isn’t here to micromanage them.

I don’t think it is micromanaging. I think its just asking them what equipment they have, said Johnson.

The Information Technology department got a vehicle, you voted for that. The appraiser’s office got a vehicle. What’s the difference, asked McCullough.

If the vehicle isn’t good enough for a detective, why do we need to give it to a nurse, asked Johnson.

It’s not going to be on the road every single day of the week, said McCullough.

We’ll see what happens in a year or two, said Johnson.

McCullough told Johnson that he told Snyder not to come to the meeting because there are a lot of issues in the commission right now and a lot of division between commissioners. He said he didn’t want for employees to get caught up in that any more than necessary.

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