Sheriff’s Office Gets $3M of CARES Act Funds

The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office will receive more than $3 million in CARES Act funding, The Black Chronicle has learned.

The funds will be used to purchase refitted SUV’s, computers and respirators.

(CARES is the acronym for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act of 2019-20.)

The purchase approval, finalized last week by the Oklahoma County Commission, provides 47 Chevy Tahoe sport utility vehicles, 109 mobile data computers and docking stations, and 200 air purifying respirators with replacement filters.

The cost of the equipment in the vehicles is comparable to that used to outfit traditional police cruisers, said Maj. Brandon Holmes, a spokesman for the sheriff’s office.

With a total price tag of more than $2.7 million, the vehicles will cost the department about $59,000 each.

Members of the budget board questioned the viability of using CARES Act funds to pay for vehicles in a meeting last month. 

Andrea Dean, finance director of the sheriff’s office, said items must meet three criteria in order to qualify:

  • Purchases must be necessary due to COVID-19;
  • Purchases must not have been budgeted; and
  • Purchases must be fulfilled before the end of the current year.

Mrs. Dean said the delivery of the vehicles will be required before the end of the year and said they were not a previously budgeted expense for the sheriff’s office.

“That means that the only reason to question whether these requested vehicles are an allowable expense under the CARES  Act funding is if you don’t believe that keeping our deputies and the citizens of Oklahoma County safe from this ongoing pandemic is a necessary expense,” the finance director said when she made a presentation to the board.

The passenger area in the new vehicles is outfitted with special non-porous material that can withstand more frequent cleaning with chemical, she said.

 They also have separate air systems for the front and back of the vehicle, so  that air does not re-circulate between the two compartments, she pointed out.

In contrast to current vehicles, she went on, “this allows the divider between the driver and passenger compartments to be solid instead of vented.”

“If not for this ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we would not need vehicles that completely isolated our deputies from the citizens they transport for the safety of our deputies and for the safety of the individual in the passenger compartment,” she explained.

Oklahoma County Treasurer Butch Freeman asked if the vehicles would replace current cruisers or be in addition to the sheriff’s office existing fleet. 

The finance diretor said the intention is to do a one-for-one swap for the 47 vehicles to replace vehicles of deputies who are “at greatest risk.” 

Other Ford vehicles already in the fleet with heat-based viral abatement technology also will be shifted around for use by deputies, she said.

Commissioner Carrie Blumert (Dem., District I) asked about the delivery timeline of the vehicles, questioning how the purchases will   affect the automobile industry’s ability to deliver.

Maj. Holmes said all 47 vehicles are expected to be delivered by the end of October.

The remaining funds of  the purchase approval will be used to provide computers that are Webcam-enabled and respirators for personal protection to the sheriff’s office.

After approving the request, the county has between $50,000 and $60,000 left in the general CARES Act funding account to spend before Dec. 31.

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