More Dallas County expenses questioned

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on August 10, 2011 at 10:00 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 10 at 10:20 PM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

DALLAS — More questions are being raised about the purchase of emergency equipment by the Dallas County Health and Human Services Department.

Dallas County Commissioner Maurine Dickey says she's confused as to why the county purchased of hundreds of thousands of dollars in storage units being put to questionable use.

"Of the six units that I went into, on one side, four are empty; three are empty, two are about a third full," she said, describing her tour of nine Dallas County health department storage units that she's been asking questions about for more than a week.

Dickey's quest began after News 8 was being denied access to health department emergency satellite equipment — equipment we were later shown and have since reported cost the county up to five times more than it is worth.

Over the past few years, Dallas County HHS has also purchased climate controlled storage sheds where emergency equipment and supplies were supposed to be stored. On Wednesday, Dickey learned the sheds were being kept at Commissioner John Wiley Price's District 3 headquarters in southern Dallas County.

When News 8 accompanied Dickey to inspect those storage units, Commissioner Price denied us access.

Dickey ultimately got her look at the units, but our cameras were not allowed to go along.

Dickey made the trek to the storage sheds in 100 degree heat. When she returned, she said the walk was hardly worth it.

She said the six units that did have goods inside seemed to be of marginal emergency use — what she described as boxes of dry goods and furniture, much like what is already being stored in units closer to the health department headquarters near downtown Dallas.

According to records obtained by News 8, the county health department requested $85,000 to pay for three storage units in 2007; then in 2008, another $120,000 was requested for three climate-controlled storage units.

Dickey toured those units on Wednesday. "Most of those supplies don't require cooling," she said. "They are things like progress reports, staples, a stapler — things that don't require air conditioning or climate control. The last unit that we tried to break into with a crowbar they are going to have to get a locksmith. It wouldn't be much good in the case of an emergency, because they couldn't get into it. Even with a crowbar and a hammer we couldn't get into it."

By late Wednesday afternoon, no one showed up to repair the lock, and we received no response from the health department director to explain why more than $200,000 was spent on storage sheds.

News 8 also received no response to the question of why the "emergency equipment" inside the storage shed is being kept in southern Dallas County, ten miles from downtown Dallas.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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