JONESBORO — With dealers’ inventories low, the Jonesboro City Council approved an emergency ordinance Tuesday to waive bidding and buy three police vehicles from an Oklahoma City dealership.

Police Chief Rick Elliott said the three vehicles are only a fraction of the number his department needs.

They also come at a higher price than the city would normally pay under a state contract. But with police departments across the country in the same bind, Elliott said he feels fortunate to have found any.

Inventories of new vehicles of all types are low because of last year’s disruption in production due to the coronavirus pandemic. Because new cars are more and more dependent on computer technology, Car and Driver magazine reports a semiconductor chip shortage is now affecting the new vehicle supply and causing used car prices to climb.

The Detroit Free Press reported Monday that Ford Motor Co. could start shipping unchipped vehicles to dealers around the country sometime this year – vehicles that cannot be sold to consumers immediately but something to fill dealer lots that are growing barer by the day.

When back-ordered semiconductor chips become available, Ford dealers would then insert them into components in cars that customers have selected and send them home immediately and eliminate an additional wait related to post-parts shipping, Ford spokesman Said Deep told the newspaper.

“We’re discussing this idea with our dealers so we can gauge interest. We’re assessing and it’s still very fluid,” the spokesman said.

With Tuesday’s approval, the city will pay $39,960 each for two Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs and $34,264 for a Silverado pickup. Arkansas state bid prices for comparable vehicles are $36,640 and $28,932 respectively.

While the prices are higher, Elliott said the city will realize some cost savings in that the the trucks will come fully equipped, with the exception of police radios and the city insignias, so once they arrive, they can quickly be put into service.

Elliott said the JPD fleet is down by 12 due to crashes and other factors, such as aging vehicles.

The council also bypassed the normal rules and formally adopted an ordinance to approve up to $100 million in financing for expansion of the Nestlé Prepared Foods Co.

Under terms of the bond issue, the city will be the owner of record of the improvements until the bonds mature in 2051. The company will lease the improvements and pay the equivalent of 35 percent of the property taxes that would normally be owed.

The company announced its expansion plans in December to add 90,000 square feet to its facility in order to produce additional product lines, such as Hot Pockets brand sandwiches. As part of the expansion, the company plans to hire at least 100 new employees over two years.

The council heard the second of three required readings of an ordinances that would rezone 3.56 acres owned by David and Deborah Harshorn at 5441 and 5443 Southwest Drive near Darr Hill Road, from C-4 neighborhood commercial to C-3 general commercial district for the purpose of constructing commercial mini-storage buildings.

A neighboring resident, Steve Floyd, said he and several of his neighbors oppose the proposal, believing it would harm their own property values. However, Gary Pruitt, who said he has agreed to buy the land contingent upon the rezoning, said two previous sales had fallen through because of the lack of access to sanitary sewer. He said the land also won’t perc for a septic system. Because of that, a storage business is one of the few options available for the land. Pruitt also claimed he’s talked to many people who live in the adjacent Clearview Estates residential subdivision and he found no one who opposes his proposed business.

Council members also heard the second reading of a proposal by Duyen Tran to rezone 0.23 acres at 3003 Kingsbury Drive, next to Checkers, from R-1 single family residential to C-3 general commercial. A house, which faces Red Wolf Boulevard would be replaced with a 1,900-square-foot building for a hair and nail salon business, according to Tran’s application.

Final action on those two proposed ordinances is scheduled for Aug. 3.

A third rezoning was postponed temporarily at the request of the property owner until Aug. 3.

John Stuckey proposes changing 11.53 acres at 6609 C.W. Post Road from R-1 single family residential to I-2 general industrial. With the land located in a floodway, Stuckey proposes excavating subsurface materials for other properties he owns.