MARINETTE — After a recent city-county shared-use agreement for a Lenco Armored Rescue Vehicle (ARV) — aka “BearCat” — between the City of Marinette Police Department and the Marinette County Sheriff’s Department, officials from MPD presented a plan to sell their current tactical response van. 

Thanks to a Port Security Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant through the Department of Homeland Security, MPD acquired the funds to purchase the van in 2008. Since that time, the city’s Tactical Response Unit (TRU) utilized the vehicle for personnel and equipment transport.  The unit serves as one of the few regional response teams in the state with special training, equipment and tactics for responding to high-threat, critical incident situations and threats of violence.    

“Now, after the agreement with Marinette County, it looks like later this year the MPD will have an armored vehicle at their disposal,” said Lt. Joe Nault, who presented the plan to committee members. “So with that, we now have the ability to sell the van.” 

According to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the MPD and the sheriff’s department, while the county foots the entire bill for the approximately $180,000 refurbished ARV, both departments agreed to joint ownership, operation and future maintenance and/or upgrades of the vehicle.

Once the county places the order for the ARV, sheriff’s department Lt. Christopher Lesperance said that delivery time falls within about nine months, putting the BearCat’s arrival at the county Law Enforcement Center, where it will be stored, sometime in October or November of 2020. 

By selling its tactical response van, MPD could maintain a fiscal resource to assist in its part of the BearCat’s shared-use agreement with the county.  

OPTIONS AND A VAN SALE CAVEAT 

Nault told committee members that he expects to net approximately $20,000 to $25,000 for the sale of the 2008 van. However, because MPD purchased the van with the FEMA grant, use of any revenue gained from that sale comes with provisions attached.  

He explained that Homeland Security and other grant initiatives frequently stipulate how, and on what, departments are allowed to spend their funds. Meticulous audits by granting agencies like Homeland Security closely examine how local departments spend grant money. Those audits require Nault to maintain detailed records on behalf of the MPD and the city.

MPD purchased the original van under initiatives that directed the FEMA funds be used for purposes of acquiring a vehicle that serves and supports the MPD’s tactical unit missions and objectives. 

According to Nault, several options exist for MPD, regarding potential sale or disposal of the van. First, MPD could turn the van in or dispose of it, and then refund the FEMA grant to Homeland Security. Second, the department could keep the van and continue using it in conjunction with the BearCat.

However, Nault emphasized to the committee a more beneficial option. 

“I think the logical thing to do is to sell (the van) … and devote that money to a revolving fund that is protected and earmarked for use on major upgrades and repairs for the BearCat,” he said.

He further explained, that under the original grant initiative, such a fund would not cover minor maintenance like oil changes and tire rotations for the the BearCat. Instead money from the van’s sale would need to be spent on major upgrades and repairs that enhance technologies and advance the BearCat’s tactical capabilities.    

Committee member and Alderman Jeffrey Skorik cautioned that MPD officials remain mindful of supplanting various MPD budgetary items with any such rotating funds created from the sale of the van. He explained that in situations involving grant funds, where entities closely track expenditures applied to the grant, “tripwires” can occur. He added that officials remain attentive of not applying grant funds to items or services already budgeted for in the annual budget, like gas for vehicles.

“As long as we are watchful of that, I think it makes sense to be able to open up (such a fund) so that whatever items that we need to support (the BearCat mission), that effort is consistent with keeping the BearCat operational and the people in it safe,” Skorik said.   

City of Marinette Finance Director Jackie Miller pointed out that one way to avoid such tripwires comes through the creation of a completely separate account for deposit of any van sale revenue. In that way such money is not pooled with other MPD account funds, creating a sort of “gatekeeper” that ensures the grant money is spent according to Homeland Security initiatives. 

“(With a separate account) you would need all the checks and all the approvals before I even walked over to bank to withdraw the money,” Miller said.   

The committee voted unanimously to recommend to City Council the authorization of MPD’s sale of the van. Pending that decision, the Finance Committee will discuss setting up a rotating fund or account for any future upgrades to the BearCat when it arrives later this year.