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Carter Highway Committee discusses SUV request

John Thompson • May 16, 2018 at 5:55 PM

ELIZABETHTON — With the Carter County Commission getting close to voting on a budget for the next fiscal year, there are often spending increases that come under criticism. One controversy that has come up in this year was the request by Highway Superintendent Roger Colbaugh to purchase a new sports utility vehicle.

The controversy was parked by the estimated $55,000 cost for the new vehicle. When Colbaugh was asked about the purchase of such a high-priced SUV, he said the actual cost would be under $40,000.

On Wednesday, Colbaugh’s estimate was confirmed, when the bid price came in at $36,939. The bid was by Neighborhood Ford in Erwin for a Ford Explorer.

“I don’t know where the $55,000 figure came from,” Colbaugh said. “The Blue Book on it is about $45,000 and you take off all the discounts and fees they have for government buyers.”

The higher figure may have helped to galvanize some of the opposition to the requested SUV. County Commissioner Danny Ward discussed his opposition to the request in Monday’s Highway Committee meeting. Looking directly at Colbaugh, he asked, “Do we need a $55,000 SUV? We don’t need it.” He said the request had never been discussed in the Highway Committee before going to the Financial Management Committee and the Budget Committee.

Highway Committee Chairman Mike Hill said it was the appearance that was a problem. He said the Planning Commission uses a Jeep with over 250,000 miles on it, and the landfill uses a truck with 300,000 miles. Others asked if it would be better to get a car.

After receiving the bid, Colbaugh said it was important to have a vehicle with four-wheel drive because of some of the more remote roads in the county that he must travel to. Colbaugh said he chose an SUV rather than a truck because an SUV is less expensive.

For Colbaugh’s first four years as highway superintendent he drove a Ford F-150. Colbaugh said he decided to pass that truck along to his supervisors because he never carried anything in the bed of the truck. He said they had a better need for the truck, so he decided to get something smaller.

“Jack Perkins (the highway superintendent that Colbaugh succeeded) ordered that truck for me after I won the general election,” Colbaugh said. The truck now has 55,000 miles on it.

Before the SUV controversy, the Highway Committee discussed several other matters.

They included a recommendation to the County Commission to adopt Hidden Oak Lane as a county road. The committee also approved a request to ask the Tennessee Department of Transportation to conduct a traffic study at the intersection of U.S. Highway 19E and Gap Creek Road below Hampton.

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