The Jackson County Board of Commissioners recently approved the purchase of three new vehicles – two for the office of Jackson County Engineer Melissa Miller and one for the Jackson County Health Department (JCHD).

Engineer Miller had submitted a request to the Commissioners for the purchase of two new dump trucks prior to the Tuesday, Nov. 9 meeting. However, the Commissioners opted to table that request and invited Miller to attend the Tuesday, Nov. 16 meeting to further discuss the matter. She was joined at that meeting by her Maintenance Superintendent Jason Sickles and Highway Superintendent Andy Dickens.

At the start of the discussion, Miller questioned why her request was tabled the previous week, stating that a salesman currently had two trucks on hold for her department. She then handed out printed photos of some of her older vehicles, including a 1984 model wrecker, as well as other trucks ranging in age from 1986 to 1996. Miller explained that she did not bring photos of the newer model trucks that were likewise experiencing problems.

Engineer Miller told the Commissioners that her department had four trucks down during the week of Nov. 8, one of which had its catalytic converter stolen and was expected to cost around $6,000 to repair. Sickles added that many truck parts are currently on national back order, and that the companies “have no idea when they’re coming in.”

“I know that anytime I bring a request in to buy something, it’s always because what we’re replacing is 30 years old,” Miller said. “That’s why I was very distraught when I couldn’t get that approved last week.” She added that the county has 14 truck routes, which are used for numerous reasons, including snow and ice removal, and that she needs 14 trucks up and running to man those routes.

Dickens stated the Engineer’s Office/County Highway Department have seven total tandem trucks, and that the two oldest, which each have close to 100,000 miles on them, have “been in the shop more than they’ve been on the road.” He added that truck manufacturers like Western Star and Peterbilt have all been cut back regarding the number of trucks they can sell.

“They were cut back a year ago by about 30 percent,” Dickens said. “Staring Jan. 1, they’re being cut back by another 25 percent. Once they sell that lot of trucks, they’re done. So, our two spots, if we don’t take them, it may be another year before we can do anything.”

Commissioner Jon Hensler, expressing his belief that the Commissioners have never denied a request from Engineer Miller, explained that the matter was tabled the week prior because the Commissioners wanted to have an executive session with her first. The engineer’s request for two new dump trucks was ultimately approved in the form of Resolution 197-21, and the group entered executive session to discuss personnel-related matters.

Earlier in the Nov. 16 meeting, Commissioner Donnie Willis made a motion for the county to purchase a crew cab, four-wheel-drive Dodge truck on the JCHD’s behalf for a total of $31,500. He said the agreement is for the JCHD to pay $10,000 immediately after the resolution’s passage, another $10,000 on Jan. 1, and a final $10,000 payment following the first tax collection of 2022. This would result in the county paying $1,500 and the JCHD paying $30,000 for the new vehicle.

Commissioner Paul Haller gave thanks to Mark Porter Ford of Jackson for facilitating the truck’s purchase. Commissioner Willis added that the local dealer even took $14,000 off the sticker price, which made for an offer that could not be looked over. Commissioner Willis also explained that JCHD employees had been using their own personal vehicles to conduct home inspections and to haul tools since the agency’s last truck became inoperable.