VILONIA — A man in handcuffs in the backseat of a Vilonia police car managed to crawl out the window, get in the front seat and wreck a cruiser last week, leaving the city short on wheels. Tuesday night, the council approved the purchase of a replacement.
Police Chief Brad McNew asked for the council’s approval, Tuesday night, to purchase a police-equipped, 2013 white Tahoe, with 24,000 miles on it, at a cost of $29,500 to replace an older vehicle that was “totaled” by a handcuffed detainee last week.
“We are really needing a car,” McNew told the council. Now, he said, officers are forced to “piggy-back” using a 2002 model with more than 100,000 miles. The department was already short on fleet vehicles awaiting delivery of a police cruiser that has been on order for several months, McNew said.
He said the insurance will pay about $7,662 in replacement costs on the wrecked vehicle bringing the overall cost to about $22,000. However, he said, the city also has a $1,000 deductible.
“The good thing is nobody got hurt,” McNew said. “This could have been real bad.”
According to McNew, during a traffic stop Joshua Miller was pulled over by Officer James Sellers on Church Street for no tail lights on Sept. 12. In a second police car, Officer LaRon Lowe was also on the scene. Miller was allegedly driving on a suspended license and in possession of drugs.
Miller, McNew said, was handcuffed and placed in the back of a police cruiser. Due to the heat, a small window in the back of the cruiser was left open. The suspect managed to “slip his cuffs from the back to the front and drive off” wrecking in a nearby wooded area, McNew said. One of the officers was standing at the front of the police car with his hand on it, according to McNew. Miller allegedly honked the horn before gassing the police car in that officer’s direction.
McNew said Miller was apprehended within minutes after the incident and charged with aggravated assault in connection with allegedly endangering the life of the officer as well as several other charges and was transported to the Faulkner County Detention Center. McNew also said that Miller allegedly had been incarcerated in a state correctional facility until a week or so prior to the incident.
In other business:
• Mayor James Firestone issued two proclamations. The first proclamation declared the results of the special election held Sept. 10, where voters approved the continuation of a half-cent sales tax to be dedicated to park and recreational improvements to include four additional softball fields, seven soccer fields, parking and a concession stand with utilities on land, previously purchased by the city, and located on North Mt. Olive. The results, Firestone said, were 482 in favor of the tax and 34 against it.
The second proclamation declared Oct. 4, as Go Pink for the Cure Day in regard to breast cancer.
• The council discussed the city’s ordinance in regard to street parking. It is “well written,” according to Mayor James Firestone. He said he had contacted the city attorney for an evaluation after some tickets were thrown out of court due to technicalities. It was suggested, he said, by the city attorney that when officers write tickets, they should take photos and videos documenting the impeding traffic situations.
He said if the ticket system doesn’t work it may be necessary to adopt a new ordinance to restrict parking to one side of the street or to do away with street parking.
• The council recognized Firestone and gave him an “A plus” for being named as Mayor of the Year by the Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police at a recent banquet in Northwest Arkansas. McNew nominated Firestone highlighting his efforts to better train and equip the police department as well as for other community projects. Addressing the audience at the council meeting, Firestone said, he has to share the award with many others in the community. “It’s a group effort,” he said. “We have made an excellent community here.”
• Fire department. Chief Keith Hillman said Faulkner County remains under a burn ban. He said he has turned in requests for two grants — one for three tornado sirens and another regarding upgrading and adding two bays to Station 2, located on Highway 319 and Cypress Creek.
• There will be no September Planning Commission meeting.
• Police Department. McNew said officers have completed the yearly re-certification on Tasers.
• Parks and Recreation. Coach Michael Johnson reported on the soccer program. Currently, he said, there are from 160 to 200 children enrolled. Also, he said, they are having requests from teams from other cities wanting to join. “We are bursting at the seams,” he added.
On that note, he credited the council with forward thinking regarding the city’s recreational facilities. He talked briefly about the plans for the new soccer fields, in regard to the passing of the recent sales and use tax.
• Senior Citizens. Alderman Art Pischke said about $2,200 was raised at a breakfast and silent auction held Saturday.