In just another in a long line of financial battles between Sheriff Ray Nash and Dorchester County Council, the seven-member body unanimously denied Nash the opportunity to buy the vehicles of his choice last week.

County Council drew the line in the sand Feb. 4 by voting down the proposal for the sheriffís office to buy Dodge Chargers, forcing the sheriffís office to purchase Ford Crown Victoria vehicles. The 23 vehicles are included in this yearís fiscal budget.

The move by Council came at the recommendation of County Administrator Jason Ward on behalf of the countyís fleet manager. One of the reasons for rejecting Nashís request is councilís attempt to standardize the entire county fleet. Standardizing the fleet gives the county more flexibility when needing parts and hiring employees to service the vehicles.

Ward says the Crown Victoria is $942 less expensive than the Dodge Charger without equipment. The Crown Victoriaís price through the stateís contract is $21,212. The Chargerís price is $22,154.

Ward says all cars are bought through the stateís contract unless a local vendor will meet or beat the price.

Nash outlined his reasons for wanting the Charger in a three-page memo to County Council last month:

He believes the Charger is a more highly rated vehicle.

The Charger is supposed to get two miles per gallon better gas mileage

According to sheriffís office figures, after equipment is added to the vehicles, the price difference is only $44.

Nash cites the ìblue bookî value of the car for resale being more on a Charger, at least for the limited numbers of years theyíve been available, than the Crown Victorias.

The cost of tires for a Dodge Charger is also greater, $25 more than for a Crown Victoria, but Nash believes this cost will be offset by the better fuel mileage.

Nash says in his memo that to standardize his fleet it makes more sense to buy the Chargers since the most recent car purchases the sheriffís office has made are both Dodges, Chargers and Magnums.

Nash, who last month announced his intention to retire at the end of this year after serving three four-year elected terms as sheriff, has often battled County Council over his budget throughout his 12 years as sheriff. Just last year, Council called on Nash to stop charging a $15 jail processing fee after an attorney generalís opinion left the legality of the fee in doubt.

Last June, Council ordered the freeze of all non-essential spending of the sheriffís office for the rest of the month citing that the sheriffís office was over budget for the year. The sheriffís office was also the focus of a special forensic audit ordered by County Council. The audit findings showed embezzlement of the jail funds, which has been blamed on a former jail captain.

Contact Ryan Castle at 873-9424 ext. 216 or rcastle@journalscene.com.