SHERIDAN — If all moves forward as agreed upon Monday night, all vehicle identification number inspections in Sheridan County will be conducted by the sheriff’s office rather than split between the police department and sheriff deputies.
The $10 fee to conduct the VIN inspection will be collected by the sheriff’s office as well. The county clerk will need documentation that the fee was collected from anyone who tries to register their vehicle at the clerk’s office. If no documentation is provided, the clerk will collect the fee even if it was already paid.
VIN inspections were the second topic of discussion in the second meeting between city councilors and county commissioners at a work session prior to the regular City Council meeting Monday.
The inspections became an issue during the economic downturn, Mayor Dave Kinskey said. Community Resource Officers for the city were reduced from five to two and the police department decided to limit VIN inspections to 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mondays, 3-6 p.m. Wednesdays and 1-3 p.m. Fridays.
Meanwhile, the sheriff’s office continued to do VIN inspections whenever needed throughout the week.
Commission Chairman Terry Cram said that since July 2013, the city has averaged 13 inspections per month while the county has averaged 135.
The county became frustrated with the shift in workload to mainly sheriff deputies.
Fee collection and disbursement to the proper entities also became a frustration to both the city and the county. At one point, it was agreed that the county clerk would collect all fees and make a flat payment of $250 per month to the city’s general fund to reimburse the city for VIN inspections done by police department staff.
Police Chief Rich Adriaens, in a memo to the mayor and council, said the payments from the clerk stopped in 2010 and never resumed.
Cram said there were a few months when the new clerk took office that fees were not collected or distributed but that the problem was worked out and payments resumed. Cram said the established payment to the city was $120 per month, which was established by the previous clerk.
However, as the police department cut its hours for conducting VIN inspections, the county began to feel the payment amount to the city may no longer have been fair.
At the start of the meeting, Cram said the county did not wish to hash out who said what but rather just offer three options to solve the problem and reach an agreement. The options presented were that the sheriff’s office could do all VIN inspections, that the police department could continue to do inspections but collect their own fee, and that the clerk would require proof of payment for the inspection or would collect the fee again.
Kinskey said he was hesitant to have the council make a decision on behalf of staff and said he would rather staff work out the issue, but Adriaens stepped in and said that he and Sheriff Dave Hofmeier had decided they would agree to options one and three.
“I think it’s great all 12 of us here could go through it, but I do want to emphasize that ultimately these things are solved by staff and this situation was solved by the county reliance on county staff,” Kinskey said.
Commissioner Steve Maier said that, yes, staff can handle such issues, but that the inspections became an issue because city and county staff failed to work out a fair agreement over several years.