PERE MARQUETTE TWP. — The acceptance of an armored vehicle for the Mason County Sheriff’s Office drew a long discussion during the meeting of the Mason County Board of Commissioners Tuesday morning at the Mason County Airport.
Commissioners voted 5-2 to allow for the sheriff’s office to take possession from Newaygo County an International M1224 MaxxPro MRAP Armored Vehicle with Janet Andersen and Nick Krieger dissenting.
“I’m not naïve in any way, but I think it’s a sad day when we have to have a vehicle like this for our (law enforcement),” said Commissioner Ron Bacon. “I understand, but still, in my mind, in rural Mason County it’s sad we need something like this.”
The county’s Public Safety and Courts Committee recommended the move to the full board. The vehicle is not being purchased by the county, and the funds for maintenance and insurance are coming out of the sheriff’s budget.
Members of the committee said the lack of a purchase cost motivated them to approve the request.
Andersen asked and Mason County Sheriff Kim Cole and Commissioner Jody Hartley confirmed the county had the vehicle in its possession prior to Tuesday’s vote.
“Because of the wording with the contract that Newaygo (County) had with the federal government, they had 30 days to get rid of it,” Cole said. “If we didn’t take it, it would go to another agency. Initially, Newaygo County thought we had 6 to 9 months. That was not the case. It had to be off their property.”
Newaygo County is purchasing a similar but smaller vehicle to replace the one being going to Mason County.
Krieger asked Cole if other nearby counties, outside of Newaygo County, have one, or if the Michigan State Police had one. Cole said there are none in West Michigan.
“Not even Muskegon has one,” he said. “There are none north of us, maybe in Traverse City. (The state police) does have one. It’s in Lansing…. Oceana has a Humvee, but I don’t know what is entailed in there. We entered into a mutual aid agreement last year with Newaygo, Oceana and Lake counties so we could share equipment.”
Cole said the vehicle will not only be used in SWAT, but in rescues.
“I would remind you that tens of thousands of these vehicles are on the road protecting our money,” he said. “Why would we not give the same consideration for our citizens and our children. We are failing if we don’t look at it in that light.”
Andersen said she understands the need to protect those in law enforcement, but disagreed with how the vehicle was received.
“In reference to transparency, I have an issue with how this was done,” she said just before the vote. “In the communication we received, it said the transfer would take between 10 and 12 months. And I do have an issue with how that was done…. I think as a board, this needed to be a board decision before it arrived.”
Commissioner Gary Castonia said if the county paid for the vehicle, then there would have been an issue on receipt of it.
“Because no money was changing hands, it’s a different story,” he said prior to the vote. “The sheriff gave us an outline, and we felt, as a (committee), speaking as a (committee), it was OK to acquire the vehicle prior to the board approving our decision.”
In discussion before the conclusion of the meeting, Andersen restated her objection based on the receipt of the vehicle. Krieger said his reasoning for opposing was partly based on that, but was also an issue of personal philosophy.
“I don’t support the militarization of the police. I don’t support building a police force that looks like an aggressor. I don’t support that,” he said. “None of the other area counties has found it necessary, apparently, to have one of these. That speaks volumes in my mind.”