The Trustees of the Town of Luther have to come back to a Special Meeting on Monday night to re-do a decision from last week to spend $64,000 to purchase two new police cars and a command vehicle for the fire department.
The Town Board approved the purchases at its regular meeting, but the decision was made during the Town Board meeting, not the Luther Public Works Authority meeting, the entity that allows the Town to incur debt (financing) for purchases. This Monday night Special Meeting gathers everyone together again to fix the error.
However, the spending of the money is not without controversy in light of budget concerns.
At last week’s meeting, former Mayor Lea Ann Jackson pointed out that the Town is over budget just three months into the new fiscal year. She asked questions on several agenda items, including the ones about the purchase of the vehicles.
“My concern with the expenditures approved at the last Board meeting aren’t a result of the specific items being purchased. It is based on the need for the Board to manage the resources of the Town as opposed to a crisis demanding a response. By purchasing the two vehicles for the Police Department, they will have spent $10,000 more in the first three months of the year than they planned to spend for the entire year,” said Jackson, a CPA and executive with the Oklahoma Bankers Association.
Luther Police Chief Marcus Thurman told The Luther Register that his department was able to save money on budgeted items such as car computers because of some donations to offset the cost of the new vehicles.
“We currently have 16 square miles to cover and patrol in Luther, it takes about five years to accumulate 100,000 miles per car. But even then, we don’t just decommission them because it has been five years. Both myself, and the Town Council, have to be fiscally responsible to the taxpayers of Luther, yet we have a responsibility to make sure that the officers have reliable and safe vehicles,” said Chief Thurman.
He also said the two cars in question should have been decommissioned some time ago.
“To save the taxpayers money we have quite honestly babied these two vehicles to keep them on the road. It must be remembered these vehicles are not like the average citizen’s vehicle, they run constantly on ten hour shifts every day of the year and due to that, they are under a lot of wear and tear, even though they receive constant maintenance and oil changes. That is why the two vehicles in question have been on the road since 2004 and 2005. But to save money, we have not asked that they be replaced until recently. Currently they are just too much of a liability to the department and town,” said Chief Thurman.
Jackson said she doesn’t dispute the need for the vehicles, but objects to the expenditure with no regard to the budget which could lead to the town not being able to pay bills or make payroll down the road.
“If the Board feels they have no option but to make these purchases, they are suppose to determine at that time what budgeted expenses are going to be cut to ‘free up’ those funds, amend the budget and file the amended budget with the State Auditor. By not doing so, they create another crisis down the road when there aren’t funds to pay basic expenses such as payroll, employee health insurance, etc. Additionally, they paid off several loans in the last 60 days or so but are now originating new loans to pay for these items. Every new loan includes fees, etc. that could have been avoided. Not knowing what the interest rates were or will be, it’s hard to say what the cost of these actions are. I recognize that a budget is an estimate of the future and will never 100% predict the future. However, the cash in the bank reinforces the concerns for the future,” said Jackson.
Thurman emphasized that Luther police cars roll for about 180,000 miles, while other agencies pull their police cars off the road at about 100,000 miles.
In addition, the Town Board last week voted to buy a fire command vehicle for $26,500.
Although the Town Trustees did not disclose the cost or arrangements of the vehicle during the meeting, fire officials tell The Luther Register that many hours were spent searching nationwide for a command vehicle that can handle the demands of communicating with several agencies – such as the LPD or even another fire agency such as OKC or FD. Even on a basic call such as a grass fire, communication is vital. The Tahoe the LPWA will be asked to approve purchasing Monday night comes from New York.
Jackson applauds the work of the PD and FD but said the town is overspending.
“The Town has spent $10,479.64 more than has come in during the first 90 days of this fiscal year. The LPWA has received more than expended by approximately $14,000 but that will be used, and then some, when the generator project is completed since the Board approved $30,000 more than it will receive from the grant that was suppose to pay for the entire project,” said Jackson.
The Special LPWA meeting is at 6 pm and will be broadcast on Periscope.