April 01, 2023

County may still utilize unwanted sheriff car

Union County Board of Supervisors agreed Wednesday to table Sheriff Mark Shepherd’s request to use American Rescue funds to purchase a vehicle for his department. The additional time will be used to see if a vehicle Shepherd could trade in as part of that purchase can be used by other county departments, mainly the assessor’s office.

Late last year, Shepherd made the request for $60,000 to buy a fully-equipped patrol vehicle. He suggested using the county’s American Rescue funds, the $2.38 million provided by the federal government for municipalities to make up for lost revenue because of COVID. Shepherd was not at Wednesday’s meeting.

Last month, Union County Assessor Mindy Schaefer told her conference board she has budgeted funds to purchase a vehicle to avoid using her own vehicle for her work. Her plan is to have $25,000 to spend on a vehicle in 2025.

Supervisor Rick Friday suggested the idea of having Schaefer use the vehicle Shepherd was wanting to trade in. Friday said a 2017 Ford Explorer SUV could be used by Schaefer. Schaefer, who initially made the proposal in early 2022 of buying a vehicle, said she can drive about 9,000 miles a year for her work. She prefers the vehicle have four-wheel drive, climate control and a GPS device since some areas of the county do not have reliable cellphone reception. The Ford has about 135,000 miles.

Schaefer attended the meeting at the end of the discussion and was willing to further pursue the idea. The plan would be to transfer a determined amount of funds from Schaefer’s budget to Shepherd’s budget for the value of the car.

She said the use of her personal vehicle for work has added additional miles and related expenses. Her approved budget last year included some car-related expenses. Supervisor Dennis Hopkins had suggested increasing reimbursement mileage for Schaefer when she uses her personal vehicle for work. She said she would prefer to only use her vehicle to travel to other places for work-related meetings, which is common with county employees.

Shepherd had said he would research grants to help with vehicle purchases.

The sheriff had said it’s normal for his vehicles to being driven an average 25,000 miles a year. There are nine vehicles but one is intended for transportation but not equipped like a traditional patrol vehicle. The proposed new vehicle would be equipped for transport. The transport vehicle and a spare are driven less than the average annual miles.

The department has a Dodge Charger Shepherd would like to get rid. He said Chargers are not ideal for gravel or county roads. The department uses Dodge Durango SUVs as patrol vehicles. Shepherd said he is not confident the Durango will be available by 2024 but will consider another vehicle that can still use the existing equipment. Shepherd prefers getting another Durango.

If the $60,000 is spent, the county will have about $110,000 remaining in the American Rescue funds.

In other county news...

Supervisors approved its agreement with Mediacom for internet services at $349 a month and at a higher speed. The county’s previous contract was $369 a month. The agreement is for three years. Union County is waiting for Lockridge internet to be available. In 2021, supervisors agreed to contribute $145,988 of American Rescue funds to the Wayne County based provider to extend its service to Union County. The county can end its agreement with Mediacom before the contract expires. The county does not know when Lockridge will be available or cost.

Tom Hartsock from Hartsock Insurance Agency informed supervisors the county’s workers’ compensation policy is in excellent condition. He said it’s reflection of department heads and employees efforts. He does expect the county’s policy for property to increase.

Secondary Roads Superintendent Al Hysell said people who live in the county and clear snow from their own driveways should not push the snow across the county road into the right of way or adjacent ditch. He said he knows of several places where that happens and that portion of the road is damaged.

A liquor license for The Legacy Venue was approved.

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.