published Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012

Without money to buy vehicles, Catoosa sheriff seeks options

Brent Hamill, a school resource officer at Ringgold High School, enters his vehicle which has cosmetic paint damage, a loose dash board panel and over 100,000 miles on the odometer. The Catoosa County Sheriff's Office is seeking to lease cars to replace their oldest cruisers.
Brent Hamill, a school resource officer at Ringgold High School, enters his vehicle which has cosmetic paint damage, a loose dash board panel and over 100,000 miles on the odometer. The Catoosa County Sheriff's Office is seeking to lease cars to replace their oldest cruisers.
Photo by Dan Henry.

Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office cruisers are racking up the miles, and this year’s budget won’t pay for replacements. So authorities are looking at whether they can lease vehicles for the patrol.

Maj. Gary Sisk said the office is working with Chattanooga officials and Ford Motors to replace temporarily several of the 74 patrol cars or vehicles that are breaking down or have more than 100,000 miles.

This year, the sheriff’s office doesn’t have money to replace any patrol cars, and its maintenance budget is only $60,000 a year, Sisk said.

Since 2009, the sheriff’s office has replaced department vehicles with special purpose local option sales tax money, which was expected to bring in $1 million for vehicles over a five-year period, authorities said. But tax revenues are dropping, and all funds received to this point have been spent, Catoosa County City Manager Mike Helton said.

“We’re not going to spend more than we make,” Helton said. “That alone holds the sheriff back from getting the cars he needs.”

Sheriff Phil Summers and Sisk then asked the County Commission to budget 15 new vehicles into the 2013 fiscal budget, which started on Monday. The cars cost $23,000 to $25,000 each. But commissioners rejected the proposal, and Helton said that was because there was no money available in the general budget.

Sisk said the latest option is to lease vehicles to replace the oldest cars such as a 2003 Impala or ’04 and ’05 models that are breaking down. He is researching how the sheriff’s office could use leftover funds from last year’s more-than-$8-million budget to lease Ford Taurus models.

“We will do everything we can to continue to work with the county and stay under budget,” Sisk said. “[But] all this will be is a gap stop.”

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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