Sheriff’s scanner request is denied by three

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
Dorchester County Council President William Nichols represents Ward 2, located in Cambridge.

CAMBRIDGE — The Dorchester County Council rejected on Sept. 3 a request from the Sheriff’s Office for a Live Scan purchase. The digital device is used for capturing the image of fingerprints. It is currently used by the FBI, the Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies.

Council members William Nichols (Dist. 3), Libby Nagel (Dist. 5) and Jay Newcomb (Dist. 1) voted against the purchase. Members Ricky Travers (Dist. 3) and Lenny Pfeffer (Dist. 4) supported the move.

After the images are recorded digitally, they can be transferred electronically to other users and locations. As a communications device, the scanners were included in the county’s radio system upgrade, which is mired in confusion and delays. Millions of dollars — no precise figure has been revealed — have already been spent on the upgrade, which is not yet fully functional.

At the council’s Aug. 20 meeting, an earlier request for the equipment was deferred. On Sept. 3, the request came with the news that the Sheriff’s Office had found $5,917 from a grant to help with the purchase, which would total $27,000.

The equipment was originally approved as part of a bond, basically a loan, the county would use. But on Aug. 20, the Sheriff’s Office learned they would need to find their own money to pay for at least part of the scanner.
“I can’t vote to bond anything, it takes you 20 years to pay for the bond,” Mr. Nichols said. “You are going to pay for it twice.”

“I guess my main problem is this: We just completed the budget two months ago. Everybody’s running in here, wanting money, in all areas…They had their whole five, six, seven months to get their budget together, and they’re in here wanting money.”

Mr. Travers said, “This was included in the other project. This was not a separate project.”

“We’re going to pay dearly for this,” Mr. Nichols said.

“Is it in writing anywhere? There’s no formal vote, no formal contract,” Mr. Newcomb said.

“There are emails between Emergency Services and the sheriff’s representatives that this would be covered,” County Manager Keith Adkins said.

Mr. Pfeffer said, “This is a mandatory piece of equipment. I hate to see him have to take money away from portable breathalyser equipment that he was going to purchase with that $5,900.”

Ms. Nagel said after a committee of county staff reported on the radio upgrade problems at the previous meeting, the county still needs to find more money for the project. “We don’t know how much we are going to have to come up with,” she said.

After a motion to approve the request failed, 3-2, Mr. Travers moved to pay for the sheriff’s request from the contingency fund. During discussion, Mr. Adkins said, “If I may add, the system that they currently have, has no more hardware backup, there is no more data. This is required by the state and federal governments. If this goes down tomorrow, the Sheriff’s department will be out of compliance.”

Ms. Nagel said, “If it’s that bad, it should have been in the budget.”
“It was expected to be paid for with bond money from the communications system,” Mr. Pfeffer said.

“It just ticks me off every year,” Mr. Nichols said. “It ain’t about him…they come in here and want money after the budget is struck. Hurlock came, a couple other people came. It’s ridiculous. We shot one down, we approved all the rest.”

Ms. Nagel asked if the sheriff could cover half the scanner purchase, and was told by Mr. Adkins that information from the sheriff indicated he could not.

“I’d like to see him try,” Mr. Nichols said. “I’m serious, I’m serious.”

The motion to use the contingency fund failed, by the same 3-2 split. Ms. Nagel then moved to have the sheriff pay half the price, and to have the county manager keep in touch with council members, who could then take a phone poll on whether to accept that arrangement.

From the audience, Clair Citrone said, “Am I able to be a part of this discussion? I’m just curious what the fine would be, by not meeting the mandates of the federal and state government. You get fines from them, you’re going to pay way more than $27,000.”

After Mr. Nichols said he was irritated that people ask for money after the budget is done, Mr. Citrone asked, “When was it mandated?”

“It done been mandated for years,” Mr. Nichols said. “It ain’t just start.”

The motion to ask the sheriff to pay for half passed, 3-2, with Mr. Nichols and Mr. Pfeffer opposed.

In the public comment portion of the meeting, citizen Stan Trice voiced his support for the sheriff, saying, “I’m very disappointed in some of the council members, that they continue to beat up on this man, and the position that you all, as council members, put the manager of this county in, because of your attitudes…The mandatory scanner was approved in the bond issue in the beginning. Now, you want to hold it hostage, and hold the sheriff hostage, because you may have more money to spend on the radios. That’s not his fault, that’s not his problem. The money was approved. Now, all of a sudden, you put it on Keith, and go, ‘Keith, go back to the sheriff, and make him do the dance for us.’ So the sheriff does the dance, and comes back and tells you he found $5,900.”

Mr. Trice continued, “And you still shoot him down, for money that was pre-approved before this…It’s ridiculous.”

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