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City of Norris replacing familiar patrol truck

The familiar sight of police officers in white Ram pickups patrolling the streets of Norris and Andersonville Highway soon will be gone.

Instead, the last remaining Ram patrol vehicle will be replaced in coming weeks by a used Ford Explorer SUV with special police modifications, which the Norris City Council on Monday night decided to buy from a surplus-vehicle program operated by the state of Missouri.

The council chose to spend $23,000 on the three-year-old Explorer rather than purchase a new Dodge Charger police sedan for $27,000, which was originally considered as the replacement for the ailing Ram pickup.

City Manager Scott Hackler told the council members that although the Charger would be new and would come with all-wheel drive, the Police Department really needed a four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle to replace the four-wheel-drive Ram.

That’s because the Police Department not only patrols paved city streets, but also the miles of gravel and dirt roads contained within the Norris Watershed, a 2,200-acre forest preserve that runs between the city proper and Norris Lake.

“Even though the Charger would come with four-wheel drive, it’s not suitable for off-road,” Hackler said.

Norris has already retired one of its two Ram pickups because of mechanical issues, and police now patrol the city with the remaining Ram and a used Ford Crown Victoria sedan that was given to Norris by the city of Clinton when it was replaced there.

But now the remaining Ram also has mechanical issues and needs a new engine, Hackler said. Instead of spending money on repairs, he recommended replacing the Ram with the used Explorer.

Missouri has a surplus-vehicle program that offers used police vehicles to county and municipal governments when the vehicles have from 50,000 to 75,000 miles on them, Hackler said. The only catch is that they don’t come with a warranty, as the new Charger would have.

In other action during Monday night’s monthly council meeting:

• The council voted to spend $35,050 to match a state grant for a project to extend Sawmill Road to Norris Freeway roughly across from the end of Cross Pike Road. The exact location has not yet been mapped.

• Council members approved spending $13,000 to update the city’s accounting software, which will also bring a continuing additional $10,000 annual use fee after installation.

Mayor Chris Mitchell and Councilwoman Loretta Painter opposed the move, with the mayor expressing reservations about the annual $10,000 fee the city would have to provide for in future budgets. That’s in addition to a $7,000 annual fee the city already must pay for software use, City Recorder Janet Parks said.

• The council passed on second reading an ordinance to set all traffic fines in City Court to $50 plus court costs. The ordinance will go into effect after approval on third reading.

• On recommendation of Mayor Mitchell, the council voted to set up a dedicated fund that residents could donate to for improvements to city recreational facilities – beginning with upgrades to the city’s tennis courts and facilities at the city tennis complex on Chestnut Street next to City Hall. Mitchell said the courts are used frequently, but are not in good shape, with cracks in their surfaces.

• Council members also discussed the issue of glass recycling, which is no longer available at the city’s recycling center at 125 Cedar Place. The city no longer has a market for recycled glass, so it’s no longer accepted at the Recycle Yard.

Residents are advised to throw discarded glass into their regular trash receptacles, and not to leave it at the Recycle Yard, as the bin for glass there has been removed.