The Lewis and Clark County Commission has approved the purchase of a $1.17 million mobile emergency command response vehicle for its sheriff's office.
Nomad GCS, a Columbia Falls-based designer and manufacturer of such tactical vehicles, submitted the only bid meeting county specifications of $1,091,904.78, which was awarded by a unanimous vote of the commissioners during Thursday's regular meeting.
Casey Hayes, purchasing officer for the county, said the Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's Office elected to include about $83,000 in "certain additives," bringing the total cost to more than $1,175,000.
Those bells and whistles include a $16,000 cellular modem upgrade package, a $14,500 spray foam insulation upgrade package and a $7,500 "Insta-Chain Automatic Ice Chain Package."
The county intends to use two separate federal grants to purchase the vehicle from Department of Emergency Services of about $682,000 and an allocation of American Rescue Plan Act aid approved by the commission totaling $640,000.
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Hayes said delivery of the vehicle per the contract will be one year from the bid award.
Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's Office Deputy Greg Holmund said the command vehicle will allow the law enforcement agency to communicate "anywhere in Lewis and Clark County."
"We'll be able to operate anything from small incidents to large incidents with 10 separate work stations inside the truck, and it's deployable anywhere we need to take it," Holmund said.
He said the only thing close to this type of vehicle is the office's search and rescue division's "rescue base."
"Aside from the radio technology in there, everything else is outdated," he said of the agency's existing option. "There are no computers; there is no satellite. And quite frankly, except for maybe keeping people warm and using it as a base, we don't use it."
He said most of the agency's major operations are run out of deputies' patrol vehicles.
Holmund recalled a recent fire in Augusta during the response to which he had to drive back to the City-County Building in Helena to print out maps. He said by the time he had returned, the wind had shifted and the maps were no longer useful.
He had to drive back to Helena three times for new maps in one day.
"With this technology, we'll be able to contact (county staff) and get maps emailed to us and print them off in the truck," Holmund said.
The technology on the vehicle is advanced enough so that should a major incident cause the county to lose its 911 dispatch center, those communications could be fed into it, creating a mobile dispatch center.
The life expectancy of such a vehicle is about 25 to 30 years, with the technology designed in such a way that it can be updated without substantial retrofitting to the vehicle itself.
"It's been a long-stated need and stated hope for the sheriff's office to obtain a vehicle like this, and the capabilities are vast," County Commissioner Andy Hunthausen said. "The other thing that is attractive about this to me is that it is grant funded."
Hunthausen lauded the county's now expanded ability to assist neighboring communities during an emergency with the purchase.