By Ken de la Bastide
The impasse between Howard County and Kokomo city officials over jointly purchased equipment for the Weights & Measures Department and Emergency Management Agency is becoming more intensified.
The city has prevented the Weights & Measures Department access to the equipment as of Monday – the day the county took over operations.
Last month the city terminated the inter-local agreements with the county for the operation of Weights & Measures and EMA. The county assumes EMA operations on Dec. 31.
The Howard County commissioners Monday set a noon Friday deadline for the city to transfer the Weights & Measures equipment to the county.
The commissioners received two quotes for the potential purchase of a pickup truck for the department so it can continue operations. The county also will have to purchase specialized equipment, such as scales, if the equipment is not obtained from the city.
Tyler Moore, president of the Board of County Commissioners, said a request for a formal reply concerning the equipment was sent to Kokomo officials last week. No reply was received.
Eriks Chevrolet bid $25,970 on a pickup truck and Brad Howell Ford submitted a bid of $26,728 that the commissioners took under advisement until Friday.
Commissioner Paul Wyman made a motion to give Kokomo officials until noon Friday to transfer the Weights & Measures equipment.
Randy McKay, director of operations for the city of Kokomo, didn’t respond to a request for comment Monday from the Kokomo Tribune.
Commissioner Bill Thompson said it was unwise to purchase more equipment, which would be paid by city and county taxpayers, until the transfer is determined by a court.
Thompson asked if the county could use the equipment until a court ruling is issued concerning ownership.
Thompson said the city is considering inter-local agreements for the joint funding of the combined 911 dispatch center, which went into effect in 2011, and the longstanding joint operation of the city and county planning departments.
Larry Murrell, Howard County attorney, said the county could file for relief from a court and ask for a temporary restraining order for release of the equipment.
“We’ve asked the city every different way we can,” he said. “This is giving them one last opportunity. It will be up to the commissioners to determine what action to take in the future.”
Wyman said in order for the county to provide the services to all county residents, including those in the city of Kokomo, the equipment is needed.
“No one I’ve spoken with is unhappy with the actions the county is taking,” he said.
County officials contend the city should transfer all the equipment to the county as a result of the action to turn over services to the county.
Kokomo officials have countered the county should pay for the equipment. At one point the city asked the county to pay $90,000 for the EMA equipment and the transfer of two tanker trucks to the Kokomo Fire Department.
The proposal was rejected by county officials.
Wyman said a decision could be made on Friday to take legal action if the equipment is not transferred to the county.
“My hope is the city will give us the equipment,” he said.