Hancock County Fiscal Court approved the purchase of a side-by-side UTV for use by emergency medical services, giving first responders a reliable way to reach areas of the county which may be in rugged terrain.
Fiscal Court met Jan. 10 in the first meeting of the new year.
The need for the UTV was first discussed with the opening of Jeffreys Cliffs to public visitors. Trails at the Cliffs snake through the rugged and hilly landscape, which makes extraction of those who may become inured or experience a medical emergency much more difficult.
Magistrates approved the purchase of a UTV at $18,171, with plans to add equipment such as a light bar, a winch, and equipment for transporting medical patients.
The Hancock Heritage Foundation, which spearheaded the Jeffreys Cliffs development as a recreation area, has agreed to purchase a trailer to transport the off-road vehicle.
Judge/Executive Johnny “Chic” Roberts said the vehicle will also be used for other emergency responses, along with coverage of community events.
There was discussion of available storage space at the Emergency Operations Center, with Magistrate L.T. Newtown floating the possibility of constructing additional space at the facility. No action was taken.
In other business, Fiscal Court:
• Approved the occupational tax report, hearing that collections to date have totaled $2.43 million, an increase of more than $230,000 over the previous year.
• Heard a report on emergency management with the department reporting it is currently monitoring the COVID-19 situation in the county, with expectations of a surge following the end-of-year holiday season. As well, the department has reached out to tornado-affected communities who might need assistance though none have indicated a need for additional help. The department is also studying Hancock County’s preparedness in the even of severe weather in the community.
• Heard participation rates at Senior Services following reopening have remained low, most likely due to trepidation concerning the coronavirus pandemic.
• Accepted the 2022 calendar year budget for the office of County Clerk Trina Ogle in the amount of $2.02 million, with a maximum level of deputies’ salary of $105,000. Ogle told Fiscal Court she intends to hire an additional deputy to work in the office as she anticipates an increased workload due to the 2021 elections.
• Approved the budget of Sheriff Dale Bozarth in the amount of $361,350.
• Reappointed Jason Roberts to the Planning Commission.
• Heard the estimate for updating the emergency services communication system is $2.3 million. Roberts said the system is outdated and unreliable, and it must be updated. The judge/executive said he will be studying financing options for the much-needed project.
• Approved replacing fencing at Vastwood Park in the area of the maintenance shop and swimming area.
By C. Josh Givens