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City decides to pay less for police cars
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The McMinnville Board of Mayor and Aldermen voted unanimously to accept the lowest bid for seven police cars Tuesday night after city attorney Tim Pirtle advised the aldermen one of their own ordinances forbids them from accepting a higher bid, even though it actually establishes a preference for buying locally.
The low bid came in from Chevrolet of Murfreesboro at $20,561 per car for a total of $143,927. Initially two aldermen, Junior Medley and Rick Barnes, had suggested buying the cars locally from Edd Rogers Chevrolet, even though its bid was $686 higher per vehicle for the same car, for a total of $4,802 more for the city to buy locally.
“I like doing business locally,” said Medley at the Feb. 14 Safety Committee meeting. “I’m not against any of the people here. I just like doing local business.”
Barnes made the motion in committee to purchase the vehicles from Edd Rogers and it passed 2-1, with the no vote coming from Alderman Clair Cochran.
At the full board meeting, Pirtle asked that the vote be deferred until he could investigate the ethics of accepting a higher bid. At the meeting Tuesday night, Vice Mayor Everett Brock asked Pirtle to address that issue.
“Tim do you want to explain the legalities of this thing, of accepting a different bid?” said Brock.
“It was not about legality,” said Pirtle. “It was about whether or not the board was authorized to accept a higher bid in preference to a local dealer. And I apologize for not knowing the answer to that question when it first came up or we could have probably clarified it then.”
  Pirtle then advised the board of a previous ordinance that addressed this very issue.
“This board passed an ordinance in 2001, No. 1378,” Pirtle said. “This establishes the purchasing process and the requirements for advertising and soliciting competitive bids. The board, in 2001, established preference for local dealers. This would be a Class A purchase because the subject matter has a price tag of $10,000 or more dollars.”
“The ordinance that was passed in 2001 gives a preference to local business,” Pirtle continued. “But only if the price is the same. The other criteria, price being the same, are quality, service, delivery, and those criteria can be used to give preference, per the ordinance, to a local business, but only when the price is the same. So you do not have the option, under the ordinance, to accept something other than the lowest bid, under these circumstances.”
Alderman Jimmy Haley brought up another facet of the deal.
“To reiterate, we’re also piggy-backing on a state contract in order to do this as well,” Haley said. “We’ve done that before in order to get the lowest bid on products.”
At that point Cochran called for the question and the roll call vote passed unanimously for the city to purchase the cars from Chevrolet of Murfreesboro.
McMinnville Police Chief Bryan Denton said he understands why the aldermen wanted to buy from a local business, but understood Pirtle’s concerns as well.
“We’ve got a procedure to go by with that,” Denton said. “It’s pretty much my job to get that information to the board so they can make an informed decision. And whatever they tell me to do is what I’m going to do.”
Denton says he’s just glad to get the cars.
“This way I’ll have my cars in by the deadline that we need them, and we do need some patrol cars,” Denton said, noting the department had some very high-mileage vehicles. “I’m just glad we were able to come to a resolution that works good with everybody.”