Sheriff’s department seeks ARPA funds

Money would be used for dive team trailer, tower antenna installation
Kevin Passon

Shawano County Sheriff George Lenzner said even though he was told to scrap all future ARPA fund requests, he asked the county public safety committee to recommend a pair of projects on behalf of the sheriff’s department.

And the committee agreed, sending both requests to the executive committee for consideration.

Lenzner first said the county is required by state statute to have a dive team. He wants to replace the current vehicle with a new trailer to haul the necessary rescue equipment.

“We have an old ambulance that they have been using to respond with. This things has repairs,” he said. “It’s over $3,000 to repair this, and I can see a future where we’re going to be putting more money into this than it’s worth.”

He said the trailer could be pulled by a fire department vehicle and won’t have maintenance costs like the old ambulance.

Lt. Jesse Sperberg, who spearheads the dive team, said they have used the ambulance for eight years. It was given to them for free.

“We’ve had good use out of it. The problem with the van is that we don’t use it a lot, but when we do, we need it to be reliable,” he said. “We have an old vehicle with lots of miles that sits there a lot. It’s not reliable.”

The ambulance is housed at the fire department, the same place a new trailer would be kept. Lenzner said the fire department has agreed to take care of the lettering, striping, setup and other costs; the sheriff’s department only has to purchase the trailer.

Sperberg said a new trailer, 7 feet wide and 14 feet long, will cost between $7,000 and $8,000.

Lenzner said if the ARPA funds are denied, the item will be added to the 2025 budget request.

“I personally cannot see spending any more money on this truck that isn’t worth as much money as what we’re going to put in,” he said.

The sheriff said many departments are using trailers for special purposes like a dive team or emergency command center. The fire department uses one for its hazmat equipment.

“I think it should go to ARPA funds, and I’ll make a motion to kick it on down to exec (executive committee),” said Tess Serrano, committee chairwoman.

A second request, this one for $5,000, was made to install antennas on the top of the Leopolis tower to make it a full backup operation for communications in the central part of the county.

“We’re trying desperately to get these towers up to date,” Lenzner said.

Lt. Chris Madle, also the emergency government director for the county, said the Pella Fire Department also wants to have an antenna installed on the tower and will cover one-third of the installation cost.

Money in the 2023 budget was used to buy two antennas for the tower, which the county owns.

“This would establish Leopolis tower as a full backup tower site,” he said.

Madle reminded committee members of a storm in the summer of 2023 that knocked out the communications tower in Gresham, and the generator did not kick in (the generator has since been replaced with ARPA funds).

“We didn’t have any law enforcement, fire, EMS communications within any of our central part of our county, which is really the meat and potato part of our county,” Madle said.

Serrano said she sounded like a broken record before making a motion to request the ARPA funds.

“I think this is exactly what the ARPA funds are supposed to be used for,” she said.

The county still has about $1.5 million in ARPA money that must be designated by the end of the year.

However, the county intends to use much of that money to address the needs noted in the recent Somerville facilities assessment report.

One of those projects, replacing the temperature control system at the jail, was estimated to cost $500,000 — which is in the county budget — but has since generated quotes of $1.5 million to update.