KEARNEY — Superintendent John Maul’s Buffalo County Highway Department soon will have a fleet of 25 motor graders and the sheriff’s department will be patrolling the backroads in new four-door, four-wheel drive trucks.

On Tuesday, the Buffalo County Board of Commissioners approved expenditures of $917,095 to purchase the road maintenance equipment and the law enforcement vehicles.

Here’s the breakdown of the purchases:

- $791,550 (including $50,000 trade-in credit) for three Caterpillar motor graders;

- $36,538 for a Chevrolet Tahoe SUV to be used as a “sergeant’s vehicle” by the sheriff’s department; and,

- $89,007 for three Dodge Ram four-door, four-wheel drive pickups for patrol vehicles.

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Purchasing the three Caterpillar motor graders will bring the total to 25 graders in the highway department, fulfilling a goal Maul expressed in August while his highway department struggled to repair damages from two historic floods and keep up with the wear and tear from increased traffic on county roads.

Maul said in August that the larger fleet of motor graders is necessary to clear snow, but more importantly to perform monthly and sometimes twice-monthly maintenance on the county’s 1,300 miles of gravel roads.

Repairing damage from the March flood was an $800,000 expense. Another $144,000 in road damage occurred after the July flood.

In August, Maul told the commissioners that the 20 motor grader drivers employed by Buffalo County are responsible for maintaining 100 miles of road each, but expectations sometimes exceed what the highway department is able to deliver, so he planned to ask for the three additional motor graders.

In explaining his need for the new patrol vehicles, Sheriff Neil Miller said his deputies preferred sporty Dodge Chargers, but they’re not being manufactured because of transmission issues. Miller said Ford builds a law enforcement version of its Taurus — the Interceptor — but he recommended purchasing three Dodge pickups, along with the Chevrolet Tahoe, which is larger than the pickups. Buying the pickups will diversify the sheriff’s department fleet, giving it some cars, SUVs and pickups, Miller said.

In other business Tuesday, the county board:

- Approved the purchase of a new telephone system for the county offices. With the maintenance agreement, the system will cost $131,845. Miller said a telecommunications subcommittee researched different bidders’ offerings and recommended the option from Frontier Communications. Miller recommended that Buffalo County use a lease-purchase arrangement through the Nebraska Association of County Officials. After three years, the NACO lease-purchase will save enough to pay for the new phone system, which will allow county offices to retain the 308-236-1200 numbers. The final stage of the phone update will equip the Kearney-Buffalo County Law Enforcement Center with the new system. Miller said the county hasn’t updated its phones in 25 years.

- Approved purchasing five vacant lots across Central Avenue from the Buffalo County Courthouse for $200,000 from M.J. and Janis Shultz. The commissioners haven’t designated a use for the property, but according to Commissioner Sherry Morrow of Kearney, it was a rare opportunity to buy land close to the courthouse.

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