From backpacks to a big dump truck and a Humvee, the Bayfield Marshal's Office has an assortment of new equipment courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense excess property program.
"It's free, at least mostly," Bayfield Marshal Joe McIntyre said last week. He gave a presentation to the town board on March 18.
The equipment, also including personal protection gear, generators, and a very large front-end loader, can serve in natural disaster response as well as for law enforcement, he said.
"It's not a matter of if," McIntyre said, referring to events like wildfires or floods. "It's a matter of when. How can we better prepare ourselves as a town to respond?"
McIntyre started his presentation with pictures from local wildfires and the flooding last September. But he added, "It's not just natural disasters. Colorado has had more than its share of things like the Aurora theater shooting situation."
He continued, "Our mission is to protect life and property, safety of the citizens and quality of life."
Since the DOD excess military property program was authorized in 1997, more than 10,000 agencies around the country have participated, and $4.3 billion worth of property has been transferred to them, McIntyre said. Last year, $449.3 million worth of property was distributed.
DOD puts out a list of surplus equipment for law enforcement agencies to choose from.
"When we started with this, we wanted to look at what the Marshal's Office could obtain to respond to incidents," he said. "One of the first things we got was an aim-point rifle scope that allows us to better respond to active shooters. We were able to order 14 of them - seven to use, and seven for spares."
"Then we started thinking outside the box" to how items could be used in natural disasters and to protect town infrastructure, McIntyre said. "The heart of our operation is the town hall - computers, communication. Now we have a backup generator for town hall," as well as a large backup generator for the water treatment plant.
Public Works Director Ron Saba said the water plant already has a generator that the town got in case Y2K computer disaster predictions turned out to be real. But with plant expansion to serve the La Plata/ Archuleta Water District, the second generator is needed.
McIntyre said the Humvee has multiple potential uses, such as search and rescue, getting around in a bad snow year (think early 2008), or to respond to incidents. It will get a new paint job.
"Every piece of equipment must have a primary use that's law enforcement related, but it can have a secondary use" such as by other town departments, he said.
A mobile floodlight with generator is for use at traffic or crime scenes after dark, but shortly after it arrived, town staff used it to find and fix a water main break at the east end Conoco/ Giant station, McIntyre said.
The dump truck can be used to haul away snow or flood debris.
On March 21, a huge front-end loader arrived. McIntyre commented that a county front end loader at the joint town-county maintenance facility looks like a Tonka toy in comparison.
McIntyre put the total depreciated value of the new equipment at $427,906. In three months, it's just over a 60-percent increase in the town's equipment holdings. "In three months, we've been able to increase our ability to respond to incidents, versus maybe getting one piece every year or two," he said.
"It's free, but there are associated costs - transport and maintenance," he said, but those are "pennies on the dollar" compared to if the town had to buy the items.
Saba added, "If we had to go buy the dump truck and loader new, it'd be a lot more. It's really good stuff." The town had to rent equipment to deal with the heavy snow in early 2008, he said, including $15,000 for a loader.
It's costing $5,000 to $6,000 to get the items here, Saba said. "We'll have to spend some money to get it up and running, but it's such a minimal cost, it's crazy."
Maybe the most out of the box thinking-type items among the acquisitions are two Segway personal transport vehicles. McIntyre said they will be used for parades and other special events, especially on July 4, to get through crowds in a way that's safer than with larger vehicles, even golf carts.
Town Manager Chris La May said of all the new items, "We feel it's a good investment. ...We're glad Joe found the program."