MARINETTE  — The revival of talks about possibly equipping the Marinette County Sheriff’s Department with a BearCat armored rescue vehicle continued at Tuesday’s meeting of the Public Services Committee and there were two revelations: The vehicle can be purchased for much less than previously thought, and most of the committee appears to support acquiring such a vehicle if the funds can be found.

The county board voted in 2014 to include the purchase of the BearCat for $252,000 in the county’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), and then about a month later voted to remove it from the plan.

Supervisor Glenn Broderick raised the issue at the county board’s February meeting, and Supervisor Mark Anderson and him did the same at the March 5 Public Services Committee meeting.

Sheriff Jerry Sauve said he thought the initial cost of the BearCat now would be between $280,000 and $300,000, but has since discovered that a refurbished vehicle could be purchased for a substantially lower price. Lt. Jason Ducane said Tuesday that a refurbished BearCat can be bought for about $170,000.

“We talked about buying a BearCat armored rescue vehicle a few years ago,” Ducane said. “At that time the consideration was for a purchase of new unit.

“Since that time, Lenco (of Pittsfield, Mass.), which is a company that produces the BearCat vehicle, now offers a refurbish program, where with a 2003 or 2004 armored vehicle, they do a complete refurbishment of that with new wiring, new suspension, new windows if necessary, and they get it back up to a status where it literally is a brand-new vehicle going back out there.”

Ducane said the program has been “pretty successful,” and that the pricetag would “be close to $170,000 or slightly less.” He explained that it’s about a nine-month process to acquire a refurbished BearCat from Lenco, which he said doesn’t begin refurbishing the vehicles until it receives a purchase order for one.

“They take that vehicle out of their parking area and they put it on their build schedule,” Ducane said. “They don’t refurbish these vehicles until there is buyer for them because they’re busy producing new models. They have a surplus of 2003 and 2004 vehicles.

“It has a Ford F550 chassis so any garage basically in the county that can work on a medium-duty truck is able to do the maintenance on this vehicle. It should be noted the lifespan of a vehicle like this can be lengthy depending on how often it needs to be used. It has a brand-new engine, the drive train is refurbished and the suspension is refurbished.”

Supervisor Ken Keller, chairperson of the committee, said the program detailed by Ducane appeared much more doable than what was previously considered.

“Part of our discussions on how we can make this work is next year we’re identifying as a year where we perhaps wouldn’t require as many new squad cars and can put that money toward buying a BearCat,” Sauve said. That’s part of the equation.

“The other part is a lot of how we train and who we partner with has changed. We have a duty to protect them and the public. It’s protecting our partners in public safety. So there’s a lot of good reasons to buy (a BearCat). It remains a high priority for us.”

Ducane said there is a “high expectation of our citizens that we are going to be able to provide immediate rescues with our rescue task force. Our EMS and fire (personnel) are not being trained different than they were ever before.”

“There’s a higher expectation to get into and help these victims that have gunshot wounds,” he said. “We’re really trying to focus on getting to these victims more quickly.

“As far as an armored vehicle goes, there may be a common misconception in the community that this type of vehicle is an offensive vehicle, a tool for law enforcement to escalate a situation. It’s quite the contrary to that.  An armored vehicle allows law enforcement to use restraint and slow things down and hopefully deescalate a situation.”

Supervisor George Kloppenburg asked if the BearCat could be a “shared resource.”

“Certainly it could be,” Sauve said. “Right now we have to rely on Brown County and there’s one in Rhinelander. We really have the need to have one right here.”

“I don’t think anybody has a problem with you guys buying a BearCat, “ said Supervisor Gina Deschane. “I think the big question is how do we figure out a way to get it into the budget. I don’t think anybody has a complaint about the need. My heart says we don’t need it, my head says we do.”

Supervisor Laura Frea asked if sponsorships to help buy the BearCat could be solicited from corporations like Fincantieri Marinette Marine and businesses in the community. Mattison said the county accepts donations, but “we don’t overtly solicit them.”

“We are in the early stages of talking to some of our public safety partners about doing something along these lines,” the sheriff said. “As we work into this and try to make a plan that is workable, those options might come into play. I can’t say much more about that right now.”

Keller said he saw no reason for any vote by the committee right now and the issue will be on the agenda for the committee’s May meeting.

“Just the conversation about this is good,”  said County Administrator John LeFebvre. “We really don’t seem to have anybody opposed to this. We’ll start working in the CIP soon. It’s good to hear the dicussion by the conmmittee on whether you support the concept.”