County machine missing

Published 12:01 am Tuesday, January 15, 2008

CORRECTION: The article that originally appeared in Tuesday’s edition of The Natchez Democrat misstated the cost of a front-end loader. The cost of the machine is $78,453 not $47,453. The article also misstated Adams County Purchase Clerk Rosa Wilson. Wilson said she had three purchase orders for six front-end loaders bought in 1992. In Tuesday’s edition it was reported that Wilson only had information about three front-end loaders. These corrections have been made in the following story.

NATCHEZ — In May of 2007 county officials realized something was amiss when they could not locate one of the county’s $78,453 front-end loaders.

In September the machine, sometimes mistaken for a bulldozer, was reported stolen to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office.

Email newsletter signup

In October, board members approved the county’s fixed inventory assets audit, minus the front-end loader.

County officials are still unable to locate the 1992 John Deere 544E front-end loader.

And now some are starting to question if the machine was stolen or if it actually ever existed.

Supervisor S.E. “Spanky” Felter has unofficially spearheaded the effort to find the missing machine.

“It’s really confusing,” he said. “It’s going back 17 years.”

Since October, Felter has been milling through a mountain of paperwork, examining serial numbers, auction sales and purchase orders for parts.

However for all the time Felter, and others, have spent looking over files concerning the machine, no clear answer emerges on its whereabouts.

And what little information exists about the front-end loader is under debate.

Sheriff Ronny Brown said he has been told that the machine was stolen by some, and told by others, that it never existed at all.

“It still has not been found,” he said. And right now that may be the only certainty surrounding the machine.

Felter said his records indicate six John Deere 544E front-end loaders were purchased in 1992.

Felter also said he has records that show parts corresponding to the missing machine’s serial number were ordered in 2004.

Felter speculates the machine was either sold at a county equipment auction or stolen.

“I don’t think it’s a bookkeeping error,” he said.

Durham Auctions in Brooklyn, handled the county’s most recent auction

However, Vice President Jim Durham said his company has no sales record for the missing loader.

Road Manager for Adams County Clarence “Curlee” Jones has his own theory about what has happened to the machine.

“It’s not missing at all,” he said.

Jones said the county never had six loaders but instead only had five to begin with.

Jones’ department was in charge of the now missing machine.

Jones said the county sold one loader under the direction of former Road Manager Russell Dorris and never removed it from its inventory.

This would have happened around 1999 or 2000 Jones said.

In addition, Jones said if parts were purchased under the serial number for the missing loader, in 2004, that would not necessarily prove it was in the county.

Jones said since all the county’s loaders were the same model parts for one machine would fit all the others.

On Monday Adams County Purchasing Clerk Rosa Wilson said she had information about six 544E loaders purchased in 1992.

Wilson did say that the Adams County Inventory Clerk Angela Hutchins might have more complete records about the machine’s purchase.

However Hutchins will be out of the office until Friday.

And while the location of the loader, or its existence for that matter, is a mystery Felter said he feels confident the loader will be located.

“We are going to find it,” he said.