The desire to buy local, despite the bid being significantly higher, has McMinnville’s city attorney questioning the legality of a move to pay more for police cars.
Police Chief Bryan Denton presented a bid to the city’s Safety Committee at its meeting Tuesday night. The bid was for seven police cars from Chevrolet of Murfreesboro at a cost of $20,561 each, for a total of $143,927. This was the low bid.
However, two aldermen, Rick Barnes and Junior Medley, expressed their desire to buy from local dealer Edd Rogers, whose bid was $686 higher per car on the same vehicle, for a total of $4,802 over the low bid. Their motion to do so passed in the Safety Committee.
But city attorney Tim Pirtle had a problem with that later during the full meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
“Could I recommend a two-week deferral on that vote?” asked Pirtle. “I’d like to investigate whether or not the justification for accepting something other than the lowest bid can be addressed.”
Barnes pointed the lowest or best bid can be accepted, but Pirtle was worried whether that was the case.
“We have to have a reason for it being the best when you’re buying the same product,” said Pirtle. “I’m not trying to cause problems. I’m just trying to make sure that what we do is done in the way it needs to be done.”
The bid was originally for six police cars, but a seventh was added to replace a car which was totaled in an accident on Spring Street in December. Denton informed aldermen insurance was covering the cost for that car.
“The insurance adjuster totaled that car,” said Denton. “We got a settlement from the insurance company so that’s why you see seven.”
Denton said the police department received several bids on the cars.
“We had six bidders,” Denton said. “Each of those folks said they could meet our specifications. What I would recommend is taking Chevrolet of Murfreesboro, which is a bid of $20,561 per vehicle on a 2012 Chevrolet Impala. That’s the low bid.”
Denton said the department had purchased and used two of the Impalas for several years, along with some Ford Crown Victorias.
“We’ve had pretty good success with those,” Denton said. “What I like about those is they’re front-wheel drive and I don’t think we’ve used chains in 10 years. We can pretty much get around in those in bad weather.”
It was asked if there is money in the budget for the cars.
“There’s about $94,000,” Denton said. “Keep in mind the insurance company is paying for most of one of these, and two are going to actually be assigned to detective division, so that’s coming out of the drug fund, so there’s money to cover it.”
Denton pointed out there were bids on a Ford from Kidd Ford and the identical Chevrolet from Edd Rogers, but they were not the low bid.
“I would like to go with Edd Rogers or Kidd Ford,” said Alderman Barnes.
“I like doing business locally,” said Alderman Medley. “I’m not against any of the people here, I just like doing local business.”
At that point, it was noted it would cost around $686 more on each vehicle to go with the local bid from Edd Rogers for a total of $4,802.
“Well, it’s my recommendation to go with the low bid,” Denton said. “But we’ll do whatever you guys say.”
Alderman Jimmy Haley asked if the cars would have to be serviced in Murfreesboro, but Denton said they could be serviced locally while under warranty.
“Chevrolet of Murfreesboro, the reason they were able to bid that is they’ve got the state contract and that gives them the ability to do some things other dealers can’t,” Denton said.
Buying in bulk in some cases allows a dealer to get lower prices from the manufacturer, though Denton didn’t say that was the reason.
“We’ve had good luck in the past with people who have the state bid because they tend to be tuned into the police package,” Denton pointed out.
“I know everybody wants to do business locally for the political expedience,” said Alderman Billy Wood. “But I can tell you from being in the car business for 32 years on fleet sales, if they make $75 a car they’ve done well. So you’re not going to break anybody if you don’t do it here. There is just no money in fleet sales.”
However, Barnes and Medley were determined to buy locally.
“I would like to make the motion we buy them from Edd Rogers,” said Barnes.
The motion passed the Safety Committee, 2-1, with one no vote from Clair Cochran.
In the full board, the motion was made to amend the resolution to buy the police cars from Edd Rogers rather than Chevrolet of Murfreesboro, but that’s when Pirtle made the recommendation to defer the vote.
“I would concur with legal’s opinion,” said Cochran.
Haley asked Denton if the delay would cause a problem with the police department.
“Two weeks won’t put us in any more of a strain than we’re already in,” said Denton. “So I think we’ll be OK.”
Haley questioned Pirtle about his concerns.
“It’s the justification I need to take a look at,” said Pirtle. “When you’re buying the very same product at a higher price, and I’m not suggesting for a minute there might not be a justification, I just can’t think of it off the top of my head.”
“You want to keep Murfreesboro from coming back and saying you did not take the low bid,” said Haley.
“I’m not really worried about that so much,” Pirtle said. “It’s just the legitimacy of the process you’re undertaking.”
It was decided to wait on the vote until the next meeting.