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Turning a profit from Lawrence vehicles
Second buyer makes more than county with fewer than half the cars

By Kristen Bishop
kbishop@decaturdaily.com · 340-2443

MOULTON — Resale prices of vehicles sold by the Lawrence County Commission show how much the county could have made if commissioners had known what they were selling.

The second buyer of fewer than half of the vehicles resold them for more than the county received for the entire lot.

Willard Cole bought 26 used Sheriff’s Department cars, a running motor home, at least four privately-owned vehicles and a boat from the county lot for $2,000 in January. He sold 15 of the cars to Larry Carr of Larry’s Mustang Supply for five cents a pound or about $1,950, according to Carr.

Cars crushed, resold

Carr crushed the cars and resold them to Tennessee Valley Recycling. He said TVR paid him between 6 and 6.5 cents per pound, about $2,535 total — a $585 profit.

At five cents a pound, Cole could have gotten $3,380 — a $1,380 profit — on all 26 patrol cars, but he didn’t offer to sell the other vehicles to Carr, said Carr. The remaining cars may have been repairable and, therefore, more valuable.

Cole nearly made back his entire initial investment by selling 15 of the cars for salvage, and it’s likely he made a profit on the remaining vehicles.

Cole did not return calls from The Daily last week, and Lawrence County Sheriff Gene Mitchell said the department has not been able to track down the 11 patrol cars that Cole did not sell to Carr.

When asked why he didn’t bid on the county lot as Cole did, Carr said, “I don’t have time to fool with things like that.”

The $2,000 Cole paid the county went into a fund for new Sheriff’s Department vehicles. Mitchell said the county could have made $15,000 to $20,000 on the old department vehicles alone. That amount would have been almost enough to purchase one new car or three to six used cars for the department, he said.

The other vehicles Cole purchased — the boat, motor home and four privately owned vehicles — weren’t actually for sale.

The commission approved the sale in January, but commissioners later said they didn’t realize what they were selling.

Chairman Mose Jones said Commissioner Bradley Cross told them in January that there were “a couple of old vehicles, salvage vehicles” that needed to be sold.

County Administrator Linda Harville had already placed an advertisement requesting bids the previous month. She said she had permission from the commission, but neither the minutes from the December meeting nor her notes document a motion to do that.

Mitchell said Harville told mechanic Buddy Oliver, who works at the county lot, that Cole could pick up everything on the lot. Oliver declined comment.

Harville later told The Daily that outgoing Sheriff Bryan Hill was responsible for telling Oliver what Cole had purchased.

Some of the vehicles Cole hauled off had been confiscated for ongoing investigations. The boat, later recovered in Jasper, belonged to the Department of Conservation.

The motor home belonged to the Emergency Management Agency but was not being used. It had had been driven 18,000 miles and came with a generator. Mitchell said Cole changed its battery and drove it off the lot.

He said Cole has not been fully cooperative and has not provided the department with the vehicle identification numbers.

Neither Harville, the Sheriff’s Department nor the county transportation office was able to provide an inventory and paper trail on the sold vehicles.

Cole did not receive titles for the vehicles. Most of the titles remain at the Sheriff’s Department.

Mitchell said it’s legal to sell cars for salvage without a title.

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