Will McCurtain County soon begin the care and feeding of North Dakota’s white elephant?
That appears less likely now.
The “white elephant” in this case is an airplane that the state of North Dakota decided to get rid of after the state legislature reviewed costs and mechanical problems with the plane.
The state’s other planes were also reviewed.
A report followed in December 2023, and that report said, “The Attorney General’s office received a 1966 Beechcraft Baron aircraft in 1993 through a federal program. The agency is returning the plane to the federal government due to high maintenance costs and a significant mechanical failure during a flight in January 2023.”
That mechanical failure occurred even though the plane flew only 17 hours during 2023.
The legislature’s report also found that in fiscal year 2023, the cost of operating and maintaining that plane was $1,541 per hour of flight.
“The cost per hour includes variable costs and fixed costs but does not include pilot salaries.”
The report was prepared by the North Dakota Legislative Council for review by the Government Finance Committee of the North Dakota Legislature.
That report helped county commissioners understand why even Oklahoma’s largest county government doesn’t find it financially feasible to operate and maintain a plane of its own to transport inmates.
On Monday, commissioners rejected claims submitted by the sheriff’s office for a plane hangar during the past two months in North Dakota.
District 2 commissioner Tina Foshee-Thomas and District 3 commissioner Robert Beck voted to reject the claims.
District 1 commissioner John Williams had to leave before purchase orders were signed due to an extreme health issue that a family member had Monday.
The sheriff’s office is resubmitting the purchase orders on the hangar rental for this coming Monday’s meeting.
Commissioners are seeking legal advice from the district attorney, who advises commissioners in civil matters.
As shown by the report, the actual cost of maintaining and operating the plane is far higher than the rosy picture that sheriff Kevin Clardy and pilot Cody McDaniel presented recently to county commissioners.
They suggested a six-hour flight to pick up an inmate with the plane would cost only about $250 per hour, including the cost of personnel, vs. $8,000 total cost for two officers to make the same trip by land vehicle.
They presented no documentation to support their opinions or projections. In fact, commissioners have been unable to get any local documents on the plane so far, including an insurance policy the sheriff’s office got for the plane, though Williams has tried to get a copy of it.