UPDATED: Guinn to Parrish: ‘If you are having staffing issues, why order new vehicles?’

Published 3:52 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2022

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The Carter County Commission will review a request by the sheriff’s department to purchase seven new vehicles in an effort to maintain its fleet.
The budget committee approved the $315,000 expenditure request 6-2 after debate about the issue.
“If you are having staffing issues, why order new vehicles?” District 2 Commissioner Julie Guinn asked Chief Deputy James Parrish. “I can see the one for the (school resource officer), but not seven. I would not want to spend that money on cars but put it on the radio system to keep these guys safe.”
Parrish told committee members the funds for upgrading the fleet with seven new vehicles plus a vehicle for the school resource officer would come from $916,000 that has been generated from housing state and federal inmates. Upgrading the fleet is a necessary investment in the department, he said.
“It is a fleet maintenance issue,” said Parrish. “We want to take the vehicles off primary patrol when they reach around 125,000 miles. We turn those over to the SRO (Student Resource Officers) and then get the older vehicles sold out of the fleet. The last time we purchased any vehicles was in 2019. Having the new vehicles with lower miles and under warranty saves on maintenance. If we don’t buy now, it may be a year from now before we can get any cars.”
Guinn’s concern over the purchase of seven vehicles was she felt that the money should be used to “put on the radio system to keep these guys safe.”
“If you had a good mechanic to service the vehicles you have now, you wouldn’t need new vehicles for a while since these only have 125,000 miles on them,” said Guinn.
Parrish said with the department having to answer calls from all over the county, they needed vehicles that could respond to those calls. He also told the committee that the last round of Crown Victorias that were sold were actually offered to local constables at a reasonable cost so they wouldn’t have to purchase all the extra accessories needed to outfit a cruiser with.
Commissioner Brad Johnson, a former Carter County Sheriff’s Office employee, questioned why would the department even consider pulling vehicles out of patrol with only 125,000 miles on the odometer.
“The way police cars are built, those cars are only getting broke in good at 125,000 miles,” Johnson said. “We used to put 250,000 miles on vehicles when I worked at the department.”
Parrish said the department was being proactive in its approach to replacing vehicles.
“We do not want to go back to the time of putting 250,000 miles on vehicles and having to tie a door closed with a piece of rope like we had to do on one vehicle when I first started,” said Parrish. “It’s been three years since we last bought vehicles, and we may not need cars for three or four more years. What you are talking about is not good business. We need to mitigate liability and have vehicles to answer calls with. We have to keep our officers safe.”
Parrish warned the committee that supply chain issues could mean vehicles are not available later, and he urged members to approve the current request.
Guinn and Bradley Johnson voted against the request. The full commission will review the request at its April 18 meeting.
After the vote, District 7 Commissioner Aaron Frazier made a motion that $300,000 from the remaining inmate housing funds and any future revenue from housing inmates be set aside for the purchase of a radio system. He also made the motion that $301,000 of the current inmate house fund be earmarked for the HVAC unit needed for the jail. The budget committee approved the motion unanimously.
Also, the committee heard a request from EMA Director Billy Harrell to cover the EMA’s portion of the camera and fire alarm test performed recently by Johnson Controls. Harrell had not budgeted the $511 payment which was the department’s portion of the $2,000 bill at the 911 Center. The testing is done every other year and Harrell was not aware when he prepared his 2021-2022 budget.
The committee voted 8-0 to approve the funding.
Chris Little of Go ‘Betsy asked for appropriation of $7,000 previously reserved for the boat ramp improvement project. Little was advised by Finance Director Carolyn Watson that the money had rolled over from the previous budget and was available. The committee also agreed to an additional if-needed $3,000 in funding should the price of asphalt go over the $45,000 given by the TVA.
After the budget committee adjourned, the committee entered into a budget hearing on the Highway Department’s 2022-2023 proposed budget.
The only major change in the Highway Department’s request for 2022-2023 was an increase in the line item for salt which was $40,000 for 2021-2022 but has been increased to $160,000 for 2022-2023.
“We will not be using stone going forward to fight snow,” said Highway Superintendent Roger Colbaugh. “We are going to use mostly salt because we have found that a mixture of pure salt does better in fighting the snow. Salt is currently $100 ton and we are looking at 1,600 tons of salt.”
Colbaugh also said his budget was over in the current fiscal year on the stone line item due to the flooding experienced by the county.
He also said that the county has $250,000 in the budget to spend on asphalt before June.
The Budget Committee will meet Tuesday night for another night of budget hearings.

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