Earle down one police cruiser after thrown rod

Mayor cites poor maintenance of 2014 Charger

By Mark Randall news@theeveningtimes.com

Earle will have to park a 2014 Dodge Charger police car for now after it blew an engine rod due to low oil because the city doesn’t have the money to fix it. Mayor Carolyn Jones informed the city council that the reason the car broke down is because of shoddy maintenance. “I’m very dissatisfied with this,” Jones said. “This is a 2014 car. I’m no mechanic. But if it had been properly maintained it should not have done that.” The car was being driven by Officer Mary Rowland when she hear a loud popping sound. Rowland thought it was a blow out and immediately pulled over. The car had to be towed to Fletcher Dodge in Jonesboro. The towing operator told the council that there wasn’t any oil in the engine when he inspected it. Jones said the report by Fletcher Dodge noted that there was a hole in the bottom of the engine, the oil filter was missing, and that there wasn’t any oil in the engine. “I asked what was wrong and the man told me it hadn’t been properly maintained,” Jones said. “That’s why.” Rowland told the council that she had checked the oil and noted that it appeared not to have been changed in some time. “It was low,” Rowland said. “I’m no car expert. But you could tell it was old oil. It was a dark, thick color.” Jones told the council that it will cost $7,400 to fix the car and that Dodge will not cover it under the warranty. “They told me there is no way it will be under warranty,” Jones said. “He does not know why there was no oil filter on it.” Jones blamed it on poor maintenance by the city’s mechanic, Lee Johnson, and terminated his contract. The city was paying Johnson $4,000 to maintain its equipment. “It’s not just this car,” Jones said. “I’m very dissatisfied with how our other equipment has been done. We’re not getting our vehicles fixed on time. And I’ve been over and over this. Mr. Johnson, you have done work for us before, but I think you just got a little too much to work with. We’re going to have to get somebody who can get these cars out fast.” Jones has repeatedly complained about the poor condition of the city’s vehicles and equipment. The city has been behind spraying for mosquitoes due to a broken sprayer, missed scheduled garbage pick ups because of maintenance problems with the garbage truck, has broken tractors, and its knuckle boom truck has also been down. “We just can’t do this any more,” Jones said. “I’m tired of people calling saying we can’t pick up garbage. The garbage truck is out of whack. The boom truck is out of whack. We need these things fixed in a hurry because people are paying their water bill and their garbage and it’s not fair to them. I had a lady call me the other day about her garage not getting picked up. I told her ‘ma’am, I’m not trying to be funny. But they haven’t picked up mine either.’ And they have every right to be angry. “You have done the best you can do, I do believe that. But we’re going to gave to go with somebody who can on these things a little faster.” But according to Johnson, the oil had only recently been changed and was not low on oil. “That car is not using oil,” Johnson said. “”It had only been 500 miles since the oil had been changed.” The car only has 34,800 miles on it. Johnson said the car had a recall on it and the real culprit was a bad wrist pin, not a missing oil filter. A wrist pin holds the piston onto the connecting rod. “We need to call a spade a spade,” Johnson said. “The car was full of oil. There was a recall on the car. Evidently they didn’t know and take it back. A wrist pin messed up and that’s what made it throw that rod. And when it went through that rode there is a hole in the oil pan.” Johnson said the car would not have started had the oil filter been missing. Councilman Cheers agreed with Johnson, and suggested the dealership took the filter off in order to avoid having to warranty the repair. “The car wouldn’t have made it that far if the oil filter was off,” Cheers said. “That can’t be true. There had to be a filter on it. So we need to argue our case. I think we have something to fight. If it just threw a rod, it should be under warranty.” Councilwoman Jimmie Barham said the city may have no choice but to fix it. “It is one of our newer ones,” Barham said. “And we know we’re not getting any more — at least for another two years.” The car was paid for by a federal Justice Assistance Grant. However, the city has been banned from receiving any further JAG grant money for two years because Jones used the car as her city vehicle in violation of the grant.

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