Plane request doesn’t fly with commission

Published 10:18 am Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The purchase a new search and rescue/reconnaissance plane for the Sheriff’s Department stalled on the floor Wednesday as commissioners tabled the request.

Commissioner Carl Turman, who said he’d been out of town, said he would like to know more information about the purchase before giving it approval.

“I’m not against it,” Turman said of the purchase. “I’d like to know more about it and table it until we can get (the sheriff) to talk with us, so when we get a call from someone out there, we can defend ourselves.

“We’re going to get the call,” he said, speaking of questions from county residents. “Again, I’m not against it. I think we should provide the sheriff’s office with what they need when they need it – when they can validate the situation.”

Commissioner Kenneth Northey agreed, stating, “If you feel uncomfortable about it, we’ll table it.”

Sheriff Dennis Meeks told The Star-News Tuesday that he plans to purchase the $13,000 plane using money from his law enforcement fund, the discretionary “pistol permit” fund that can only be used to purchase law enforcement equipment or to fund officer training. The commission does not have to provide financial backing for the purchase or upkeep; however, approval for the purchase is needed to title the plane as county-owned equipment.

Wednesday, Meeks was bewildered by the commission’s decision, he said.

“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “I spoke to the commissioners individually, and they were all for it. I’m not sure what the hold up is.

“It’s being called a search and rescue plane, but it can be used for more than that,” he said. “It’s just another tool for us. It’s just like a motor grader for the road department. We wouldn’t use the plane every day, just like they don’t use a motor grader every day, but it’s when we need it, it sure is handy.”

Meeks said he is looking to purchase a 1973 Cessna 150 from a local resident. The purchase is expected to be on the December commission agenda.

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In other business, the commission:

• adopted a new policy to inventory and replace missing employee tools, if any, when an employee leaves the county service. Commissioners said mechanics asked to purchase their own tools, but wanted to be sure that any missing tools would be replaced if stolen. County Engineer Darren Capps will perform an inventory of each mechanic’s tools, both now and at the end of their employment.

• adopted a policy that would allow residents to purchase used pipe and other surplus items at half the retail cost;

• agreed to participate in the 2014 Severe Weather Tax Preparedness Holiday;

• reappointed Vernon Stewart to the Southeast Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission board of directors;

• heard from Judy Abner, the daughter of a Gantt Lake resident, who asked the commission to research prohibiting the shooting of firearms in close proximity to homes. Abner said she’d spoken with Sen. Jimmy Holley, who agreed to examine it during the upcoming legislative session; and,

• voted to move the meeting time to 8:30 a.m. beginning in January.