JPs approve purchase of used tractor from county judge
By Scott Loftis
The Carroll County Road Department needs a tractor. County Judge Sam Barr has one he’d like to sell.
And so a deal has been struck, but not without some discussion among the Carroll County Quorum Court.
The court’s 11 justices of the peace voted unanimously Monday night to approve an ordinance authorizing the road department to purchase the 2015 John Deere tractor from Barr and declare an emergency.
Before voting, however, JPs discussed the possible perception of a conflict of interest in the county doing business with its chief elected official.
“Right up front, this goes into a little bit of a gray area,” District 1 Justice of the Peace Jack Deaton said. “There’s been a lot of research went into it.”
Deaton noted that county assessor Jeannie Davidson has checked on prices for similar tractors and found that the price Barr is asking for his tractor is below the market value.
“I was a little bit hesitant just because of public perception,” District 11 JP John Howerton said. “I don’t agree with what the assessor appraised it at, because it’s more of a consumer-type website than wholesale. But I did go on some of the wholesale websites and the price is still $3,000 or $4,000 under what they say.”
District 3 JP Harrie Farrow said she’d like to know how many hours the tractor has been used and how much the county will pay for it, neither of which is listed in the ordinance.
Road department foreman Jim Kelley said he believes the tractor had 943 hours when he originally looked at it, although that number might have increased slightly because the tractor has been used since then.
“Mid-900s,” Kelley said.
Kelley said he has driven as far as Rolla, Mo., looking for a tractor that will fit the road department’s needs.
“They’re not out there,” he said. “If they’re on the lot and they’re used, they’re usually because someone’s getting rid of them for a reason.”
Kelley said he looked at the tractor along with Barr and the road department’s shop foreman, Jerry Bradley.
Kelley said Bradley described Barr’s tractor as “far above anything we’ve looked at.”
Kelley said the road department will pay $39,000 for the 2015 John Deere 6105D 4X4 tractor with a cab and a front-end loader.
District 6 JP Craig Hicks pointed out that Barr has been elected to six terms as county judge.
“What I come back to is, the people of this county trust Judge Barr,” Hicks said.
In response to a question from District 10 JP Larry Swofford, Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Thomas Allgood said he believes the transaction is allowed under a section of state law that provides an “exemption for unusual circumstances.”
“Under these very distinct circumstances, I think that this purchase can go forward,” Allgood said. “However, that’s ultimately up to you guys.”
Also responding to a question from Swofford, Davidson said there are no other tractors available at a comparable price.
“There wasn’t anything else out there, within reason,” she said.
“The numbers that I found when I looked it up, a tractor that they consider a ‘rough trade’ — which this tractor is not that — would go for $42,700,” Howerton said. “A premium tractor, which that would qualify for, goes for $45,000.”
Farrow added that shipping costs could make it even more expensive to buy a tractor elsewhere.
On a roll call vote, all 11 JPs voted in favor of proceeding with the purchase.