County buys trucks, considers tractor

Lance Blythe, Greene County Extension Agency staff chairman, helps make the case for the county’s purchase of a tractor requested by jail administrator Brent Cox to use in the jail’s garden, and by the Extension Agency.

Greene County has bought two dump trucks and is to consider buying a tractor.

This week the Greene County Quorum Court enacted an ordinance to finance purchase of the 2021 Western Star model 4700 end dump trucks from Crow’s Trucking in Memphis, Tenn.

To be financed through a five-year note with BanCorpSouth the vehicles have a purchase price of $333,044. The note, as explained by Greene County Judge Rusty McMillon, features 59 monthly payments of $3,400 plus a final payment of $160,000 on June 16, 2025. The final extended cost of the vehicles is therefore $360,600.

McMillon said BanCorpSouth had the lowest interest rate of those banks who submitted bids, at 2.34 percent. The vehicles are expected to arrive within the last week of July or the first week of August.

But while the court’s Finance Committee took no action on a proposal from Greene County Jail Administrator Brent Cox to allow his organization to buy a tractor, it did agree to entertain a proposal to do so when such is ready.

“Brent Cox asked for a tractor in 2019,” explained committee chair (and District 4 Justice of the Peace) Jonathon Davis. “I didn’t see the need for it then, but they [i.e. jail employees and inmates] planted a garden and they need a wheelbarrow on wheels.”

Davis acknowledged he did not know whether the jail needed a tractor for that purpose, but he noted that in addition to whatever use the jail could get from it, a tractor could benefit the county Extension Agency as well. The agency conducts experiments on test plots, and expects to use ground behind the building to be built with surplus tax revenue from the now-retired jail bonds for that purpose.

Cox, invited by Davis to the meeting, said the jail garden is now producing zucchini, tomatoes, okra and purple-hulled peas. They [i.e. the Extension Agency] are using the fairgrounds to teach students. “But since the goal is for them to have their own facility,” he said, “we can grow our garden and they can teach us.”

Cox added that such instruction is already going on to a degree, through visits by Extension Agent-Agriculture Dave Freeze to staff and inmates.

Cox also said that in addition to gardening, the tractor would see use in unloading cargoes delivered close to a daily basis.

“We get four or five semis a week in,” he said, “and we have to unload them by hand. We don’t have a loading dock, so it takes time, and the drivers have to wait [while we unload].”

Cox explained that some of the loads, like pallets of laundry detergent, are extremely heavy, and the unloading ties up four inmates plus a jailer for the duration.

As explained by Extension Agency Staff Chair Lance Blythe to the committee, the tractor would be useful to the Agency as well. “We do [agricultural] research, too,” he told the committee, “but we have to use our own [personal] tools to do it. So would we use it? Absolutely! We think it’s a win-win, for us, for 4-H, for the Master Gardeners, for the jail, for everyone.”

Cox said the jail already has a tractor but needs a newer one. “We have an old John Deere that we keep patching up,” he said.

A price for such a tractor, he said, is about $39,000 from John Deere. “And that’s a little on the high side,” Cox admitted.

“I’m not sure we have $40,000 for a piece of equipment that’s going to get used occasionally,” said District 3 Justice Britt Camp.

“If we can get it bought,” Cox replied, “it’ll get used.”

He noted that just the federal inmates being housed at the jail (105 as of Monday) generate more than $7,000 a day in revenue. “So I’ve got no problem to ask,” he said, “because we can pay for it in six days.”

In response to a question from District 9 Justice Mark Reeves, Cox said the tractor would see as much use as practical in mowing the grass of county properties, as well. “That makes a lot more sense,” said Camp in response.

District 6 Justice Phillip Keeling advised the tractor should have no less than 40 horsepower. In response to a question from Davis as to whether a government contract price (i.e. state bid) was available for such a vehicle, McMillon said the county would either use the state bid or solicit bids, “once we figure out what we need.”

In response to a question from Davis, Blythe said grants were likely available to help pay for the tractor, given it’s anticipated use by his agency.

The Finance Committee voted to allow Cox and Blythe to bring back a proposal regarding purchase of a tractor, including specifications, proposed use and a funding mechanism.

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