MORVEN, Ga. —
Still, Yates hasn’t been afraid to think big.
He said he plans to use the boats and scuba gear to form a dive team because the county doesn’t have its own. He says he formed a SWAT team, arming it with surplus military rifles, a Humvee and an armored personnel carrier, before the local sheriff’s office had such a unit. And although the decontamination machine, which collects dust in a grassy area next to the Morven fire station, would be very expensive to fix, Yates said he wanted one in case he has to respond to a “nuclear, chemical, biological” incident.
Yates said he could “take my guys and the training they have, the equipment we have, and we could shut this town down” and “completely control everything.” Seeking to avoid “over-policing” the population and giving the appearance of “an occupying army,” the chief said he’s had some of the military equipment painted non-military colors.
While a fleet of donated heavy machinery helped Morven build a firing range, some say it is difficult to see much additional benefit.
Gary Randall, manager of Morven’s only grocery store, said the chief’s stockpiling of equipment seems like “big-time” overkill.
“They’ve got a bunch of damn junk is what it looks like to me,” he said. “This is a little, itty bitty town. His mentality is, ‘If I don’t get it, someone else will.’ “
Yates has driven to military bases throughout the region to retrieve the free property and said he has had to provide written justification for everything he requests. He said he asks only for equipment he needs, though he sheepishly conceded that ordering the bayonets may have been a mistake.
Sometimes he doesn’t get exactly what he’s requested, like the time he asked for a handheld laser range finder for a gun and instead got a $28,000 range finder from the nose of an A-10 Warthog tank-busting jet aircraft.