DeLand, FL - Only one item was pulled from the Volusia County Council's agenda for discussion. Item II asked for approval of a request by the Volusia Sheriff's Office to purchase a BearCat Armored Tactical Rescue Vehicle. The price tag: $337,650.
Former Volusia Sheriff now Representative at Large Ben Johnson asked for the discussion and started by saying that the BearCat is "a fantastic piece of equipment and any law enforcement agency needs to have one." His issue, he said, is the cost, especially at this time. Johnson said that VSO already has one BearCat and two MRAP vehicles. He also pointed out that Daytona Beach, Flagler County, Lake County, Seminole County, Orange County, and Orlando all have BearCats and VSO has mutual aid agreement with all of them.
Current Sheriff Mike Chitwood was quick to point out that he thought Johnson pulled the item out of personal animus and that the purchase was going forward with or without him. Chitwood said VSO needs its own BearCat in case there's a federal administration change and federal military equipment, such as the two MRAPS VSO currently has, are removed from law enforcement agencies. "There's going to be a 50-50 shot there's going to a change in administrations and on January 20, if a new administration takes Washington, D.C. over, from all of the conference calls that I'm on, from all of the Zoom panels that I sit on, the new administration is coming after every piece of federal equipment we have."
Chitwood's other argument is that VSO is a "good steward of the taxpayers' money" and for 2019, came in $6 million dollars under budget. "My job to look forward is to protect these men and women and give them the best equipment. If we have the money that we can afford to give it to them, it's looking out for the possible threats that may happen, if a new administration takes over, it's about protecting our community, it's about protecting our business leaders."
After comments from Council members Heather Post, Deb Denys, and County Chair Ed Kelley, all in favor of the purchase, Johnson said he'd reconsidered his initial comments and told Chitwood that he'd made a compelling argument. He said he was also worried that a change in federal administration would see VSO lose military equipment that they already have. That fact made the spending of $337,650 seem reasonable.
The final vote on the request for approval to purchase the BearCat was approved unanimously, 7-0.