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05-18-05 No place for vehicle impounds

By Timothy Cox

  Mercer County needs a place to store vehicles seized as evidence by law enforcement officers.

  Sheriff Jeff Grey and Prosecutor Andy Hinders renewed past discussions on the issue with county commissioners Tuesday. Grey has his eye on a storage building at the county fairgrounds maintained by the county engineer's office. But Engineer Jim Wiechart said later in the day the building probably will not be available for several years.
  County officials also talked about the possibility of siting a fenced-in area to store vehicles on county-owned land along Fleetfoot Road and state Route 29, but no firm plans were forged.
  The county's current system for storing vehicles is scattershot, Grey and Hinders said. A half dozen or so vehicles are kept in the Spriggs building on North Main Street in Celina. Sometimes the county is forced to rent space to store vehicles.
  The sheriff and prosecutor often find themselves debating the merits of whether to impound a vehicle because of the limited available space. Securing the impounded vehicles also is an issue. The Spriggs building, for example, often is open and unattended during certain times.  Although the vehicles are rarely needed for court, "it only takes one case" where the car is needed but not available to lose a criminal case, Grey said.
  "In law enforcement, we spend an awful lot of money on 'what-if' scenarios," Grey said.
  Grey said his department likely could fill any new impound facility with an average of 15 to 20 vehicles.
  The engineer's storage building on the western edge of the fairgrounds would be a viable solution, Grey said. The building would hold a number of vehicles and could be adequately secured.
  Grey said he would not want to use the large brick county highway garage building near the main entrance to the fairgrounds, mostly because it would have to be emptied every summer during the fair. The building is known to fair-goers as the Commercial Building but for most of the year is the county highway garage.
  Wiechart told The Daily Standard he has no firm plans to vacate either building in the near future. There have been casual conversations about someday moving the engineer's operation to the property around the county home where the engineer's office already has a storage building. It likely will be several years before such a move is made, Wiechart said.
  The property west of Celina will someday be "integral to our operation," Wiechart said, but also said any move is at least four or five years away.
  Barring the availability of an existing county-owned building, Grey and Hinders suggested a one-acre parcel could be fenced in to serve as an impound yard. They estimated the cost to be about $20,000.
  However, Grey said he would be hesitant to create anything that might resemble a junkyard.
  Commissioners, Grey and Hinders agreed to continue discussion on the issue in the future.


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