JASPER, Tenn. — In this fiscal year's budget, the Jasper Board of Mayor and Alderman set aside $50,000 to buy a new law enforcement vehicle.
That couldn't have come at a better time, since the police department recently lost two patrol cars in separate incidents.
"We're actually short even a backup car," Police Chief Billy Mason said. "We don't even have one of those."
Mayor Paul Evans said the town was awarded $10,000 in an insurance settlement for one vehicle, giving the department $60,000 to spend on replacing the damaged cars.
"We're going to have to get a jump on it," he said. "We don't even have a spare car right now."
Originally, Mason said, he wanted to purchase a Chevrolet Tahoe, but the more research he did the more he liked the Dodge Durango.
"We can rig out two of these Dodges for what you can buy one of the Tahoes for," he said. "There's a big difference in spending $60,000 on two vehicles and spending close to $60,000 trying to get one rigged up."
At its October meeting, the board voted unanimously to allow Mason to purchase the two vehicles for $28,652 each from Russell Barnett Automotive Family in Winchester, Tenn., through a state-approved contract.
Alderman Paul West, who is a police officer in nearby Whitwell, Tenn., said Jasper needed to buy gun racks for each patrol car, including the new ones, to accommodate the M-16 assault rifles the department got through the federal government's Department of Defense Excess Property Program in 2014.
Evans said the board voted to purchase the gun racks last year, but wanted to wait until all of the town's officers were certified to use the rifles before buying them.
All of Jasper's officers are qualified on the weapons now, Mason said, but the rifles now are stored in the patrol cars' trunks.
West estimates it wouldn't cost more than $2,500 to install racks in all the cars, and he said he wants to make sure they are purchased so officers can "get to them [the guns]" quickly.
The board also voted unanimously to buy and install the gun racks as soon as possible.
Mason said the department will get $10,334 through a Governor's Highway Safety Office grant this year, and that money will pay for officer overtime, bulletproof vests, and outfitting the new patrol vehicles.
Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.