HEFLIN — After spending some time last week with just one working vehicle, Heflin’s police chief on Tuesday told the City Council the department needs a new one.
All eight of the other vehicles were in the shop, said Chief A. J. Benefield.
The council took no action on the matter Tuesday night, but members heard from Benefield that the department has nine vehicles ranging from 2011 to 2006 model years, three of them being 2009 Crown Victorias that were bought as salvage cars — each had been in an accident and been refurbished. The three cars have had numerous maintenance issues. One has been in the shop for two weeks waiting to have its third transmission installed, he said.
The other older-model cars range from 97,120 miles to 132,301 miles, the chief said, noting the department has spent more than $13,000 on repairs nine months into this fiscal year.
“With hindsight being 20/20, thinking we could buy three salvage cars to save money may have been a mistake,” Benefield said.
Mayor Rudy Rooks told the council members that he had hoped to postpone buying a new police car until next fiscal year, but didn’t know if that was feasible with the maintenance problems. Rooks believes the city has enough money to buy a new car, he said.
“We have the funds,” Rooks said. “They just need to be rearranged.”
Benefield said the city could get a 2015 Ford Interceptor SUV with all the necessary alterations to be used as a police car for $37,808. The vehicle would have two prisoner cages, the most basic blue lights available, the cheapest radar he could find and the camera system approved by the City Council in June.
Heflin City Clerk Shane Smith said the city could use money earmarked to pay on the city’s bonds. The city was going to pay a little extra on the loans this year, Smith said.
“I hate to mess with our debt service money,” said Councilwoman Rhonda Green. “But we have to come up with the money somewhere.”
Rooks and Benefield suggested seeking a grant from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs, given that the city had bought a 2008 Chevrolet Tahoe through a previous grant from that source.
Councilman Elvin Henson asked Benefield if the department could wait until the new fiscal year begins in October to purchase a new car.
“We will make it work,” Benefield said, but, he added, if the city waits, it could mean the police department finds itself down to one working vehicle again.
Councilman Travis Crowe said the issue was safety. He said the council had to consider the human cost “if we don’t have the vehicles to make the calls and we lose a life.”
Smith said the city was scheduled to begin its budget process today. He could bring more figures to the council at its next meeting.
The council members decided to wait for more information before voting on the purchase.
In other business the council members:
— Approved the purchase of three roll-up doors, two for the Heflin Fire Department and one for the Armory and a new awning for City Hall for a total cost of $12,450. The purchase is being made with a portion of $50,000 allocated for capital improvements.
— Approved an alcohol license for Little Piggies, which will be doing business in Heflin as Damn Yankees.
— Heard that two building permits were purchased in June, both for residential remodel projects.
— Put the Community Arts Center playground on hold until there is more money in the budget.