Columbus County commissioners voted 6-1 Tuesday night to approve the purchase of five new pursuit-rated pickup trucks for the Sheriff’s Office to replace vehicles that had to be taken out of service in the last two weeks. The cost of the vehicles will be $336,546 to be financed through BB&T over three years at an interest rate of 1.97 percent. The first payment will not be due until next year.
Commissioner James Prevatte voted against the measure because he wanted to wait until the county is in a new budget year that begins July 1. His motion to table consideration of the motion to go ahead with the purchase died for lack of a second.
Commissioner Ricky Bullard’s motion, seconded by Jerome McMillian, passed in the split vote after more than 23 minutes of discussion and back-and-forth with Sheriff Jody Greene and Finance Director Bobbie Faircloth.
Some commissioners were not happy that they hadn’t received information earlier on the plan. The proposal was placed on the agenda after McMillian, a retired N.C. Highway Patrol trooper who takes particular interest in public safety matters, approached Faircloth to ask her to look at possible finance options.
The vehicles approved for purchase are two Ford pickup trucks, a Dodge pickup and two Dodge Durangos.
The sheriff said he had requested that the vehicles be included in the current budget year, which began July 1, but that they did not make it into the approved spending plan.
Greene told commissioners that his fleet is old and that the five vehicles that failed in the last two weeks have “way over” 200,000 miles each. “Motors, transmissions, we’re down to nothing and we have an obligation to the citizens,” Greene told commissioners. “The policy plainly states that vehicles rated for pursuit should be taken out of service at 125,000 miles and we’ve got over 20 pursuit vehicles with over 200,00 miles right now.”
In response to a question about purchasing used vehicles, Greene said that in his experience, used vehicles prove to be more costly than new vehicles because of repair costs. He also warned commissioners that because of his aging fleet, he will probably be asking them for funds to purchase another 20 vehicles when he makes his budget request for the upcoming fiscal year.
All commissioners but Prevatte were in agreement with going ahead and acting on the vehicle request instead of waiting for the new budget year. They also asked why they had not been told that Faircloth had, at McMillian’s request, explored financing options. Faircloth said she had informed Chair Edwin Russ and Vice Chair McMillian via email and promised to copy the email to all commissioners in similar situations in the future.