It isn’t everyday that you hear a county commissioner talk joyfully about spending money. But since Walker County Commissioner Shannon Whitfield has just saved the county almost $4 million through his skillful negotiations on a bond refinance, he is showing his happier side.

“We have some exciting purchase orders here for some new vehicles that we’re going to be able to purchase this year in our budget from the sheriff’s department,” Whitfield said.

“And, so we have Chris Anderson here, who is over the road patrol for the sheriff’s department. And we’ve asked him to be here, as we do on all of our capital purchases to talk about how we’re investing the tax dollars in the community to serve you as the citizens,” the commissioner told his July 25th audience at the Annex III building.

Vehicle purchases for law enforcement purposes

According to Anderson, the sheriff’s office “is seeking to utilize the budgeted funds from this year’s budget to purchase a total of 12 vehicles. These vehicles will be replacing damaged or non-repairable vehicles. The sheriff typically likes to break the vehicles up to a yearly purchase as opposed to waiting three, four, or five years, because it fits to the budget and tax base a lot easier.”

This is because if the sheriff waited several years to replace patrol cars it would become a danger to the patrol officer and citizens.

Patrol cars already take a greater beating than an average vehicle due to the more-frequent use it must endure compared to an individual’s car, which might only be used once or twice a day instead of all day long, every day, all year. Thus, these vehicles needing to be replaced by the S.O. were high-mileage vehicles.

In addition, patrol cars, by necessity, are driven under more intense circumstances — and at higher rates of speeds, with greater demands made on their engines and other car parts as a result, prompting more frequent need for oil changes, repairs, and even breakdowns.

And if that patrol car breaks down on the side of the road, the officer can become a sitting duck, and any citizen needing his help can languish away without a dependable patrol car to get an officer to them to provide immediate aid.

That is why Anderson told the July 25th commissioner’s meeting audience that the agency needed eight new Dodge Chargers and that one of them was going to need to be a V6 version “for our criminal investigations division.”

Jenkins Chrysler here in LaFayette won the bidding wars on those needed eight chargers, providing the county with the lowest bid for the all wheel drive vehicles.

Anderson also said that the sheriff’s office was “looking to purchase two Dodge Ram Special Service 4x4 pickup trucks. We need to maintain a few of those because as you know Walker County is largely rural and accessibility to certain locations would require a truck or something other than a Dodge Charger.”

The Georgia Department of Public Safety turned out to be the best priced option for that need.

And the county also chose to go with a 2018 (new) Dodge Durango pursuit-rated SUV-type vehicle for use in natural disasters — or any instances in which a large array of equipment is needed by command staff for a significant period of time.

Think emergency management vehicle for law enforcement.

In addition, it was time to replace a 1997 international ambulance that the county received from Hutcheson Medical Center about 15 years ago, according to Anderson, which had about 350,000 miles on it.

The sheriff’s office leader said that the upkeep on that free vehicle at this point in its life was costing more to repair it than it would to replace it.

The solution was to purchase a one-ton truck in its place, which Anderson said they found in Calhoun.

“We actually got a pretty good deal on a one-ton truck. The lowest bid on it was out of Prater in Calhoun. And, at some point the vehicle will be equipped, but for now it’s just a vehicle purchase.”

Commissioner Whitfield had this to say as he signed the purchase orders for the purchases:

“One thing that I wanted to add that is very exciting is that all of these vehicle purchases that are for the sheriff’s office was in their budget this year. So they are taking budgeted dollars and investing them in these vehicles. And, on top of that, to make it even better, we are paying for this with cash money.”

In other words, the commissioner said, “We’re not having to borrow the money to pay for these vehicles. We actually have the positive cash flow money to pay for those vehicles. So, once these vehicles come in and the disbursements made, we’ll be cutting the check and those vehicles will be debt-free.”

“I’m happy to report that to you tonight,” Whitfield added.

Jan Morris is assistant editor for the Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga., and the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga.

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