ERWIN — Responding to emergency situations in Unicoi County’s mountainous terrain, especially when coupled with wintry weather, is a concern for local law enforcement. But the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department is now in possession of equipment that officials believe may help address this.
The Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department recently acquired two military humvees at no cost through the U.S. military’s surplus program. Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley said his department put in a request for two humvees around a month-and-a-half ago, which was granted, and the vehicles were recently picked up from South Carolina.
Hensley said the vehicles and in good shape and would have been ideal for use during the August flooding that struck Unicoi County. Going forward, Hensley said the vehicles will be used in emergency situations such as this, and will be used to travel in snowy conditions and the rougher mountainous areas of Unicoi County.
“We did not have any four-wheel drive surplus vehicles that we would care to get out in the roughs with, I’d like to sort of say,” Hensley said. “With the flooding, we needed some vehicles that we could get into places like Harris Hollow, Pippin Hollow, and we do have the SUVs, but they’re low-profile vehicles. We use them on patrol, and we don’t want them to be torn up if we can keep from it. They’re not designed to go into disaster areas like (the humvees) are.”
Carter County and Washington County also previously received humvees through the military’s surplus program, and Hensley said it was Washington County Sheriff Ed Graybeal that told him he should look into requesting the humvees.
“It’s a good asset for the county,” Hensley said of the military’s surplus program. “That means we don’t have to buy it and we can use it. It is a good program.”
Hensley said the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department has utilized the program in the past and is currently looked into other surplus items it could use. He said records will be maintained on the humvees and they must be kept by the sheriff’s department for a specified amount of time. After this time, if the humvees are no longer needed by the sheriff’s department, the vehicles can be sold with this money coming back to the county.
“Since the war is winding down in Afghanistan, there’s more equipment coming in, and anything we can use here we’re going to try to get,” Hensley said. “That saves the taxpayers some money. It’s free. It’s given to us.”