Council approves purchase of new police vehicles

A recommendation by Cairo Police Chief Keith Sandefur to purchase three new vehicles from a local car dealership at a higher price than from an out-of-town dealership prompted significant discussion during the Cairo City Council meeting Monday night.
Based on an analysis of the bids by Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton, the police chief’s recommendation to purchase two SUVs for administrative vehicles from Stallings Motors was 11 percent higher than the low bid from Brannen Motor Company of Unadilla.
The police department sought bids on two SUVs from Stallings and Brannen in addition to Hobson Chevrolet of Cairo, Wade Ford of Smyrna and Fairway Ford of Augusta.
Brannen bid $25,534 each for two Ford Explorers equipped with police package. Stallings’ bid was $28,358, for a difference of $5,648 for the two vehicles or 11.1 percent more than the low bid.
The police department also solicited bids on one patrol vehicle. The lowest bid received for the patrol car was $22,359 from Wade Ford of Smyrna for a 2017 Ford Police Interceptor Sedan. Stallings bid $22,986 for a 2017 Dodge Charger, or 2.8 percent more than the low bid. A $627 difference.
While the mayor and council did not express concern with paying extra to buy the patrol car locally there was strong opposition to paying as much as 11 percent more for the two administrative vehicles.
The opposition was lead by Mayor Bobby Burns. The mayor asked the police chief to explain his reasoning behind his recommendation to buy all of the vehicles locally.
Chief Sandefur said that by not having a Ford dealer here anymore the vehicles would have to be taken to area Ford dealers for recalls and warranty work.
“How often does that happen with a new vehicle?” the mayor asked.
Chief Sandefur estimated once every three months. When pressed by the mayor on what service issues were experienced by police so frequently the police chief said primarily issues with alternators or electrical problems.
“I don’t know if I would want one of those or not. I have a vehicle for eight years and never had none of that done,” the mayor said.
The mayor went on to ask, “Would you spend an extra $6,000 for your personal vehicle?”
Chief Sandefur said he would not.
“I wouldn’t either,” the mayor said. Burns said that by not accepting the low bid the city would be diminishing the bid process. “Why bid if we are going to buy local even if it’s higher?” the mayor asked.
Public Works Director Raymond Stokes, who was also in attendance Monday night, shared his experience of having to take Ford vehicles owned by the city out of town to be repaired. In addition to the time and manpower required to take the vehicle out of town to be worked on and then to pick it up, Stokes said the city is not given priority and is “at their mercy when it gets worked on.”
“Over the life of a vehicle, $6,000 doesn’t look as big,” Stokes said.
“My judgment boils down to what is fair to the taxpayer. I don’t think paying 11 percent above low bid, as a taxpayer, is fair. It would be nice to keep it all local. If none of us went to shop in Thomasville or Tallahassee they couldn’t pave their streets, because they wouldn’t have the sales taxes to do it with, but that’s the way it is,” Mayor Burns said.
Councilman James H. (Jimmy) Douglas, who chairs the council’s finance committee, also said he could not justify the additional expense to buy the two SUVs from Stallings.
Councilman Jerry Cox asked if the Ford vehicles would serve the needs of the city. He also asked if the chief had considered purchasing two additional sedans rather than two SUVs.
The two new vehicles will replace one driven by an investigator and the other driven by the chief.
Chief Sandefur said that a Charger cannot accommodate the equipment investigators need to carry with them when responding to crime scenes.
Councilman Douglas asked the chief if he had an issue with purchasing the Ford SUVs and Sandefur said he did not.
With that, the council voted to purchase the patrol car from Stallings and the two SUVs from Brannen Ford. Total cost of the three vehicles is $74,054. The city budgeted $84,000 for new police vehicles in the 2016-2017 operating budget.
The vehicles being replaced include: 2009 Ford Crown Victoria with 121,000 miles; 2008 Ford Crown Victoria totaled in a traffic crash; and a 2007 Ford Explorer with 125,000 miles.

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