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Ahoskie seeks loan for new police vehicles

AHOSKIE – Through the US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development the town is seeking loan funds which would be used for the purchase of two new Ahoskie Police Department vehicles.

Ahoskie Town Manager Kerry McDuffie explained the loan program and the application process to members of the Town Council at their February 13 monthly meeting.

This loan program is one of several available Community Facility funding projects by USDA Rural Development.

First, the Ahoskie town officials were required to hold a public hearing, which took place at the same meeting in Council chambers.

“Our police cars are at the place where they’re getting some age on them, to the point that we’re going to have to purchase some vehicles for our police department to use,” said McDuffie. “It’s important that they have reliable transportation.”

He went on to explain the program is not a grant program, but one of loan forgiveness.

“We have to demonstrate a need, and that’s pretty easy,” he continued. “We also have to demonstrate that we cannot afford the payments to pay for what we need if we had to buy them. So they will provide up to $50,000 in loan forgiveness or up to 55% of loan forgiveness.”

McDuffie said if the town took on, for example, a $91,500 loan for the vehicle purchase, and then USDA would forgive $50,000 of that loan, leaving the town with a re-payment of only $41,500.

“We can only do this if we take out the loan, but there’s no requirement for how long we have to keep that loan,” he said. “We wouldn’t have to keep it for no longer than the life expectancy of the vehicles, which would be about five years or so; but we could keep it (the loan) for six months, or a year, and then pay it off. But we would have to take it as a loan because that’s the only way we would qualify for the loan forgiveness.”

McDuffie said he was interested in purchasing three police cars, but having them fully-equipped would extend beyond the cost estimate.

“Or, we could equip two SUV’s and that would cover all the money,” he noted. “This gives us a second option (A or B) to approach USDA about.”

APD Chief Troy Fitzhugh said the allowable amount with equipment, striping, taxes, tags, and everything else included on the police cars would not fit it into the budget, and he expressed a preference for the pair of sport-utility’s. Council members asked which would serve a greater purpose for the policemen.

“We actually have the same model SUV and it has served us better,” the Chief explained. “It has been used as a patrol vehicle by my K-9 officer on a 12-hour basis and it’s less maintenance than (patrol cars) in the last two years.”

Fitzhugh said he had seen the grant application and the pricing for the pair of SUV’s

“If we were to try to purchase three, we would never be able to get the equipment to outfit them,” he concluded. “Naturally, I’d like to have three, but this is a good start because we could fully outfit them.”

A citizen asked if the town would be using a five-year, 80,000 mile replacement policy for the vehicles.

“We’re not following that policy right now,” McDuffie answered. “It’s more a question of what we have the money to replace; because we’ve got vehicles older than five years in our department fleet right now. Financially, that policy is just not practical right now.”

The public hearing closed, Mayor Jimmie Rowe and Council told the Town Manager to proceed with the USDA grant application.

USDA Rural Development’s Community Programs seek to improve the quality of life in rural America through a variety of loan and grant programs for community essentials. They vary in purpose from public safety and public service to water and waste disposal projects, electric utilities and communications.

Community Facility Loans and Guaranteed Loans may be made to develop essential community facilities in rural areas and towns of up to 20,000 in population. Funds are available to such public entities as municipalities, counties, and special-purpose districts.

These funds may be used to construct, enlarge, or improve community facilities for health care, public safety, and public services.

The Community Facilities Grant Program is similar to the Loan Guarantee program in that it assists rural areas and towns of up to 20,000 in population. Grants may be made for most of the same purposes as direct and guaranteed loans, and these grants are authorized on a graduated scale.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.