Surplus equipment discussed by board
During a special meeting called by Raisin Township Trustees Larry Crittenden and Tom Hawkins on Wednesday, March 12, one of the items Hawkins placed on the agenda was an update on a military surplus program.
“I’ve received a lot of misinformation about this program, but we’re not stockpiling a military arsenal here as some have perceived,” said Hawkins, who added that after researching the program, he believed it’s an excellent way to deal with military surplus. “I’ve learned a lot this last year and it’s an excellent program that can really benefit not only this township but this county.”
Hawkins asked Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Scott Lambka to elaborate on the details of the township’s involvement with the LESO 1033 (Law Enforcement Support Office). The program originated with the National Defense Authority Act of 1997 and allows for the office to transfer excess Department of Defense property to law enforcement agencies across the United States and territories.
“When we were made aware of the program we brought it to the board, who approved it, and we’ve been using it ever since,” said Lambka, allowing that some newer members are now on the board that may not have been well-informed about the program, and some information may have been lost regarding the program’s status as the township has made transitions, such as merging the fire and police departments into one Department of Public Safety. “My apologies for that,” he said.
Lambka explained how few local departments were benefiting from the program after it first started, and Raisin Township took on a role to assist other agencies.
“I kind of became the go-to local expert when others wanted to get things,” said Lambka. “I’ve helped them with sign-up programs and equipment. There is an audit every year with strict compliance guidelines.”
He explained how a lot of good has come from it, such as equipment that has supported the narcotics team and other agencies. One example was the acquisition of five patrol rifles for police officers that would cost from $900 to $1,600, but only shipping costs had to be paid, which is how the program works for all acquisitions.
“We had a whole pallet of AEDs (automated external defibrillators) that were distributed to smaller agencies that didn’t have the money to do that,” said Lambka. “There’s one in almost every police car in the county.”
Another benefit was a specialized first aid kit designed to be used with a bullet wound.
“If you’re in a situation, you can administer first aid yourself to stop the bleeding until you get to a safe zone,” said Lambka. “It’s common issue in the military now, but kind of new to our field.” He added that with his military medic, EMT and police background, he designed a course in its use and taught it to other law enforcement officers, and would like to expand the offering to other departments in the county.
Not all the equipment obtained has worked out, however. A school bus obtained with the blessing of former Township Supervisor Carl Wagner was intended to be converted to a mobile command center during an emergency, but a grant that was to make that a reality fell through, Lambka said. Some other equipment arrived in worse shape than depicted and would require repair before being usable.
“I understand that some of the equipment looks like it’s just sitting around, but we’ve also formulated a disaster relief plan for if we got hit by a tornado like Dundee did where we could put up temporary shelter with a large tent and heating capabilities,” he said. That equipment included the tent, a generator and other items that are being stored. “I’ve made clear to other chiefs in the county that we have this if they get hit with an emergency.”
Lambka said he has received mixed messages as to how to proceed with the program, and asked the board for direction. He also requested permission to hold an auction in the spring or summer for some materials that can legally be sold, which the board approved.
“If anybody has any questions, I’d be glad to explain. My intention is not to pull out of the program but go on hiatus with it for searching out anything else,” he said, adding that the DPS merger now consumes most of his time. “I’d rather concentrate on liquidating what we don’t need, transferring to other departments, and that takes some work.”
Trustee Larry Crittenden said he had previously been critical of the program and “needed” this information.
“I wish it would have been sooner,” he said. “I didn’t realize how many ways we’re helping not only ourselves but other police and fire departments. I think a one day auction is a good idea and don’t think we should toss out the program idea because I think we can gain very useful things.”
He asked that an email or other communication keep the board informed when something is acquired so trustees can help keep others informed.
Trustee Debra Brousseau said while she was parks administrator, her department has also been the recipient of useful equipment obtained through the program.
“I think probably it got a little out of control with an abundance of equipment and now we need to do something about it,” she said. “After the auction, I’d like to see it kept in a condensed area so it doesn’t affect the appearance of the township. We want to keep things looking nice.”
Current Township Supervisor Jay Cavanaugh, who was not present at the special meeting due to family circumstances, has also questioned the program and said details had not been communicated to him.