Approval pending on used squad car donation to Clifford

Clifford Town Marshal Charlie DeWeese has been using his personal sport-utility vehicle on the job for the past four months since the cost to repair the marshal’s town-provided vehicle far exceeds its value.

DeWeese’s transportation situation could improve significantly next month, however, thanks to generosity from a fellow southern Indiana police department.

Crothersville Police Chief Brent Turner recently read about Clifford’s plight, highlighted a month ago in a Republic article.

DeWeese had been using his Chevrolet Trailblazer on the job as town marshal, but the personal SUV is not equipped with flashing lights and sirens. That means he can’t make traffic stops or transport anyone to jail after an arrest.

After also learning that DeWeese and other town officials are working without pay because of a financial challenge Clifford is facing, Turner decided to offer help.

The Crothersville Police Department has a 2009 Ford Crown Victoria that has been out of commission for about a year and has about 100,000 miles on it. The department obtained the vehicle in 2013, and it was used as a reserve car until being put out of service when new squad cars were purchased, Turner said.

The chief recently asked the Crothersville Town Council for permission to donate the car to Clifford.

“We’re going to get rid of one or two anyway. It won’t hurt us any,” Turner told the council.

Town attorney Jeff Lorenzo said he would obtain the vehicle’s information from Turner and put together a resolution authorizing the donation for the Crothersville council to consider at its next meeting, scheduled for Feb. 6. Afterward, the Clifford Town Board would have to pass a resolution to accept the donation.

As a bonus, Turner said a local lighting company agreed to put a lighting package and decals on the car for free.

When he shared that news with DeWeese, Turner said DeWeese was “tickled to death.”

“It’s ready to go,” Turner said. “We’ll just take it up there and drop it off if that’s what’s agreed upon.”

DeWeese said a meeting with the Clifford Town Board has been set up for the middle of February to try to get some things worked out on its end regarding the donation.

“I am so thankful that the police chief there in Crothersville has contacted me,” DeWeese said.

DeWeese provides marshal duties for the town — which had a 2016 population of 235 and is northeast of Columbus — from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. due to his daytime responsibilities with a local auction service and his role as a Bartholomew County deputy coroner.

During daytime hours, the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department helps with emergencies in the town, said Danny James, president of the Clifford Town Board.

Clifford used to get used police vehicles from the sheriff’s department, but the Columbus-based agency is now keeping its cars up to 150,000 miles and they aren’t in good enough shape at that point even for a town marshal’s use, James said.

The amount of money the town put into the last car it received from the county could not be justified because the town didn’t receive anything when it turned the vehicle back over to the county, James said.

“The town wants a car they can call their own,” DeWeese said. “They’re not going to be putting money into a car that the town doesn’t own.”

The last vehicle Clifford had been using from the county, a 2008 Ford Crown Victoria, stopped running about four months ago when it blew a head gasket and the engine needed to be replaced, DeWeese said.

DeWeese had already put a set of new tires on the car, at about $500 out of his own pocket, and outfitted the car with lights valued at about $1,200, also from his own money, he said.

The town had earlier replaced the transmission in the car and rebuilt the front end at a cost of more than $4,000, James said.

The vehicle now needs a new engine, and with installation the cost was estimated at up to $5,500, which exceeds the car’s value, James said.

Turner hopes Crothersville’s offer will solve Clifford’s problem — essentially for free.

Zach Spicer is a staff writer for The Tribune, a sister newspaper to The Republic; Julie McClure, assistant managing editor for The Republic, contributed to this report.