Douglas County spending $1.85M in virus relief on vehicle
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The Douglas County board has approved a plan to spend $1.85 million in federal coronavirus relief funding to buy a mobile command center for the county sheriff’s office, despite objections from three board members who said the money should be used for rent assistance and other human needs.
The board voted 4-2 Tuesday to approve the expenditure, with Sheriff Tim Dunning and supporters saying the large RV-like truck could be used for mass vaccination efforts in rural parts of the county and in Omaha neighborhoods, the Omaha World-Herald reported.
The vehicle will “enhance our overall collective efforts at combating the coronavirus and any other natural or man-made disaster,” Capt. Wayne Hudson said.
But board members Mike Boyle and Marc Kraft voiced adamant opposition. Kraft called the expenditure “over-the-top” and noted the vehicle’s cost comes to more than 1% of the total $166 million in CARES Act funding that Congress allotted to Douglas County. He compared the vehicle to the fictional converted RV that shot flames and launched missiles in the 1981 comedy film “Stripes.”
“This is an absolute boondoggle,” Boyle said, later addressing Dunning directly. “Please step aside and let us put it to rent assistance. There are people who are really in trouble in this community.”
Dunning replied, “I’m not walking away.”
The county’s vote came as coronavirus numbers continue to climb in Nebraska. On Thursday, the state’s online virus tracking tool showed 265 confirmed new cases and three more COVID-19 deaths. The state’s totals stood Thursday at 25,422 confirmed cases and 324 deaths since the outbreak began.
Room for new patients within the state’s hospitals dropped only slightly in recent days. The tracker showed 36% of the state’s hospital beds available Thursday, 37% of intensive care unit beds were available and 80% of the state’s ventilators were available.