The Union County Quorum Court on Thursday approved an appropriation of $9,000 to go toward the purchase of a new vehicle for the Sheriff's Office.
The $9,000 was taken from the UCSO's unappropriated equipment budget. An additional $35,000 was contributed from revenues raised at the UCSO, from fine and fee payments, among other charges, Sheriff Ricky Roberts said.
"It comes from a combination of things and it allows us to purchase vehicles and needed items that help support the sheriff's side and jail side of the organization," he said.
Roberts said the new vehicle will be a 2023 police package Ford Explorer SUV, purchased from the Smart Ford dealership in Malvern, which currently holds a state contract to provide some vehicles to government agencies.
"They bid through the whole state of Arkansas to sell their vehicles, so what we do, when we look at buying a vehicle, we have to buy it from a state bid, or a dealership that has to meet that state bid," he said.
The UCSO currently has 32 operable vehicles in its fleet, but due to shortages and supply chain slowdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many of those vehicles are wearing down.
Roberts said in December he was only able to purchase one new vehicle in 2022, and hoped then to get at least 10 new ones this year.
"Since COVID and everything, it's just been hard to get police vehicles. We're feeling the impacts of COVID even now," he said.
Earlier this year, the UCSO hired a maintenance worker to make small repairs on UCSO vehicles to help extend their lives. The patrol vehicles utilized by the Sheriff's Office are typically on the road for 12-plus hours each day, and some have 150,000 miles-plus racked up.
"They're getting a lot of mileage on them, we're having a lot of issues with them as far as maintenance goes," he said. "As big as this county is, and you're looking at vehicles that are four, five, six years old, they're racking up miles."
According to Officer Magazine, a professional publication for law enforcement workers, the police vehicle shortage has continued this year. A Ford representative told the magazine earlier this year that the "automotive industry continues to be confronted by supply chain shortages."
"It's putting not only us, but a lot of law enforcement, in a bind. We've been on this waiting list for six months," he said, referring to the list to purchase the Ford SUV. "We hope this pans out within the next few months and we're able to get some vehicles."