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Council split on tractor purchase: Mayor breaks tie

By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

Grayson City Council met in special session on Tuesday evening to discuss a single issue for approval, the purchase of a Case road tractor, at a cost of $20,000, plus a $1,000 “seller’s premium” for a total cost of $21,000. 

Mayor George Steele explained that the street department has been interested in a Bobcat or other skid steer loader type machine for some time. Council considered purchasing one in the spring, but it ended up not being a good time to make the purchase. In the interim, the city placed a bid on the Case tractor through a “government agency in Arkansas,” Steele explained. When they were awarded the winning bid at $20,000 Steele needed to bring it to council for approval. 

Steele said if the tractor was purchased new, it would run “in the neighborhood of $80,000.” 

Councilman Derrick McKinney, however, asked where the money would come from. Steele explained the city would move it out of the occupational tax fund. 

“I guess you’ve looked at the numbers,” McKinney said to Steele, noting that the city only has $250,000 between the general fund and occupational tax fund. Nothing else will be coming in to the city until the next quarter, in October, McKinney noted. In the meantime, he said, the city had over $180,000 in payroll costs during that time, and over $50,000 in other bills. 

“It doesn’t look like we can even pay payroll and bills until then,” McKinney said. 

Steele said if that were the case the city could take out a 30 day note. But, he said, “I don’t think that will be a problem.” 

Steele said the city is expecting over $120,000 in CARES money from Frankfort that will cover police and fire department salaries. 

McKinney also questioned the quality of the machinery. 

“I was told this thing doesn’t even run,” McKinney said. 

Steele explained that it starts, but it won’t go forward due to a computer issue. But, he said, the city can replace the computer and still save more money than they could buying the tractor new. 

When councilwoman Pam Nash asked why they would sell it at that price if it didn’t run properly, Steele clarified. 

“It does run,” he said. “But there is an issue with the computer on it that won’t let it go forward.” 

He said they were told it would run for a while and then quit. They would have the Chase dealer come work on it, and it would be okay for a while then act up again. Former councilman and current code enforcement officer Duane Suttles said the computer would show a safety code that didn’t allow them to put the tractor in gear. 

“But if we have to put a new computer on it, that’s still a bargain for us,” Steele said. 

Council also discussed the costs for a trailer – $3,500 – that the city would eventually need to purchase for transporting the tractor. 

Nash asked if the county would be delivering it to the city, and Steele explained that the city would have to go to Arkansas to pick it up. 

“Is that really a good price, for something that doesn’t go forward and we have to go pick it up?” Nash asked. 

Steele said it would be a multi-functional tool for the street department once it was repaired and could be used to sweep streets and to clear snow in the winter, among other tasks. 

Councilman Jerry Yates asked if the computer was the only problem with it, and Suttles said it appeared to be from his discussions with the road foreman. 

“Without (the computer) being reset, it won’t move,” Suttles explained. 

McKinney asked Steele about the city being on a spending freeze, and Steele acknowledged they were. 

But, he said, “you take a bargain if it pops up at you, and we’re not too bad off financially right now, considering what we’ve gone through.” 

McKinney noted that “the overtime is through the roof,” before telling Steele he “just doesn’t see the money there.” 

That was when Suttles and Steele explained that the money coming from the state was part of the federal CARES funding being funneled through the state to cover police and fire salaries. 

When Steele called for a vote on the purchase Councilpersons Nash and Pearl Crumm voted aye, while McKinney and Yates voted no. That put the issue to Steele for the tie-breaker, and he ruled that the city would move forward with the purchase. 

Councilpersons Terry Stamper and Sudy Walker were not present at the special meeting. 

Suttles and street department head Bub Messer will travel to Arkansas to pick up the tractor. 

Contact the writer at editor@cartercountytimes.com 

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