Leesburg Police Chief Charles Moore stands by a U.S. military surplus Humvee given to his department by the Department of Defense as they close army bases.
LEESBURG, Ga. -- Leesburg Police Chief Charles Moore and Lt. Hank Vick have been on something of a shopping spree the last three months, picking up more than $85,000 worth of equipment that will be used by the police department, the department's Explorers program and by Public Works personnel in the city.
Included in their haul are a pair of 20-man tents, sleeping bags, first aid kits, boots and T-shirts, three canoes, two diesel generators, tools, storage units, three welders. Oh, and let's not forget the Humvee.
And just how much of a dent did this collection of useful but non-essential items put in the city's budget? Actually, none at all.
Moore got wind recently of a program sponsored by the federal Department of Defense through which government agencies across the country may be assigned an identification code that will allow their representatives to request equipment from decommissioned military bases. Those representatives find items listed on a DOD website, make a request for their use and if their request is approved, simply drive to the base and pick the items up.
"All it costs is the gas to drive to the base," Vick told the Leesburg City Council at that body's monthly meeting Tuesday.
Since learning of the program, Moore has had Vick keep a wary eye on the DOD website, looking for items that can be used by the city.
"We don't want to be like kids turned loose in a candy store," Moore said Friday. "A lot of times Lt. Vick will find something that's definitely interesting, but it might be something we don't particularly need or it might be at a base too far away. We try to stay in our area. We've gotten most of our stuff in Warner Robins (at Robins Air Force Base) and at the Marine Corps Logistics Base in Albany.
"Before we go to a base outside our immediate area, we run it by the city council."
Moore did make an exception when Vick found the Hummer up for grabs at an Alabama base.
"Whatever we get, we have to use it for up to a year," the chief said. "After that, we can turn it back in or continue to use it. But if we get a vehicle like the Humvee, we have to account for maintenance.
"We felt the vehicle would be useful in emergency type situations. Of course, any vehicle that we get we have to add to our insurance. That's why we try to be careful about what we do get."
Leesburg Mayor Jim Quinn is a supporter of the police department's participation in the DOD program. He noted that use of the decommissioned equipment might possibly have a positive impact on the city's budget.
"We've got some equipment that will be useful to the city, but there are items (listed on the site) that could really prove beneficial," Quinn said. "We've heard of communities getting heavy equipment that would have cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they're picking it up for nothing.
"This program offers a great opportunity for smaller communities to have access to items that they wouldn't typically be able to fit into their budgets."
Moore notes that the tiny community of Leslie was able to obtain a truck, a bulldozer and a front-end loader recently.
"When you request a certain piece of equipment, DOD will look at all the agencies that are interested and decide which they think has the greatest need," he said. "We just requested a dually 350 pickup that had only a few miles on it, but an agency in Alabama got it.
"We're not going to go crazy with this program. If we don't have a use for an item, we're not going to try and get it. We are going to start looking for specific items like pickup trucks, a bucket truck, some heavy equipment, golf carts for patrolling events like parades, and I want to find an SUV. If we get that, it would allow us to put another patrol car on the road."
A reduction in government waste that meets the needs of cash-strapped communities? Sometimes the best things in life are free.