Broke down again…

Earle police cruiser back in the shop

By Mark Randall news@theeveningtimes.com

An Earle police car that previously blew an engine rod due to low oil is headed back to the shop because the used replacement motor the city paid to have put in is incompatible and the car is still not running right. “The motor they put in is not compatible with that car,” Acting Police Chief Mary Fowler told the city council. “It’s not accelerating. It’s sputtering. It won’t start We’re going to have to have a different motor put in there. I know that’s that not the news you wanted to hear.” The 2014 Dodge Charger blew an engine rod because it was low on oil and hadn’t been properly maintained by the city’s mechanic, according to the city. Initial estimates stated to fix the vehicle put the repair cost at about $7,000. The city instead chose to have it repaired by Beggs Auto Supply, a local NAPA parts dealer, who only charged the city $1,100. Fowler told the council the car never ran right and she took it back to NAPA twice before finally taking it to the Dodge Dealership in Jonesboro. “I took it back and he said ‘no, you just need to drive it to break it in,’” Fowler said. “It’s like it doesn’t want to accelerate. And it won’t start for sure. It’s just not doing what it is supposed to do. After that, that’s when I called Dodge.” Fowler said the Dodge dealership told her that the car will only run with a 2013 or newer motor. The engine installed by NAPA was a 2004. “Dodge is the one who told me the motor in it is not compatible with that car,” Fowler said. “The only engine that will be compatible is a 2013 or newer.” The Jonesboro dealership’s estimate to put in a new motor is $7,400. The city also has a second quote from the Dodge dealership in Wynne to replace the motor for $9,100. Councilwoman Jimmie Barham questioned why NAPA would put an engine in that wasn’t compatible. “I’m not dumping on them because you are doing business with a city that doesn’t have any money,” Barham said. “But to go and put something in an automobile that was so poorly done, was more than irresponsible.” Mayor Carolyn Jones agreed. “It was the council’s decision to send it to NAPA. So I’m not dumping on them because we’ve always had problems with our cars,” Jones said. “I’m not going to throw him under the bus. But I wouldn’t consider going back to them.” “It was a bad decision on our part,” Barham added. Barham pointed out that the city doesn’t have the money to keep spending on bills, and asked Fowler whether the police department could function with one less car. “What could we do without.” Barham asked. “What if we were to manage the different shifts? What I’m saying is, what can we do to not have to do this?” Fowler said the city still has three vehicles — a newer model Dodge Charger, and an older model Impala and a Crown Victoria. However, those vehicle are also in need of repairs. “We have issues that need to be taken care of that are minor,” Fowler said. “We have engine lights on, ABS lights on. But they can be driven. Three cars are street ready.” Fowler suggested the city might be able to double up on patrols with two officers to a car until the city can afford the repairs. “We can work with what we have,” Fowler said. “It’s going to be difficult because we have ten officers. And on nights we are rolling anywhere from four to six officers Friday and Saturday evening nights. But we can always do two officers to a car which is much safer and more efficient.” Jones said he favors doubling up on patrol in the meantime. “I like your idea,” Jones said. City Clerk Cynthia Conner pointed out that the car was purchased with federal grant money and the city has to keep it maintained under the terms of the grant. “We need to keep it fixed for the simple fact that it was grant money and it is the city’s responsibility to keep it operational,” Conner said. “We have to do something.”Barham also agreed that the car needs to be fixed and pointed out that the vehicle is going to have to last because the city won’t be getting any more federal grant money for the next three years. The city has been banned from applying for Justice Assistance Grants because Jones used the car as her personal vehicle. “We know they told us there will be no car,” Barham said. “We have lost that from where we get the cars. All I’m saying, is it is in the rules that we have to keep that car going. I don’t know where we are going to get the money for these things. These bills? We can’t keep doing this.” Conner said the city did budget $10,000 for repairs. Councilman Donnie Cheers suggested they table the matter until they check into whether they have the money.

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