In this Letter to the Community, I want to talk about the half million dollar vote scheduled for Tuesday’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting.
In the January Board of Mayor and Aldermen work session, Alderman Danny Bryant brought a proposal to the board for the purchase of twelve new police vehicles for the Fayetteville Police Department. Alderman Bryant submitted it to the board as an information item, meaning that no vote was set and instead, more information was to be presented at the February work session.
He outlined his reasons for the proposal:
From the Elk Valley Times reporting, it seems like all the aldermen agreed that it was something that should be considered and more information was needed. I’d encourage you to take a moment, click that link, and go read what the other aldermen had to say.
At this month’s work session, Alderman Bryant presented numbers to the board. The proposed purchase is 10 Tahoes and 2 pick-up trucks for $508,554.65. That includes around $22,265 in interest for the 2.8% loan the city would take out to cover the purchase. The loan would be paid back within three years. That’s the proposal going for a vote this Tuesday, February 12th at the monthly Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting.
Similar to last month’s work session’s, it appeared that the full board is in agreement on a core issue – the safety of our police officers is incredibly important and these new vehicles will make things safer. Current vehicles would be getting replaced anyway starting in 2021.
The disagreement between the aldermen lies in a few areas.
- First, the timeline – how many vehicles do we purchase now compared to following years?
- Second, the process – do we wait until the normal budget process that begins soon and build this purchase into the new budget?
- Third, the purchase method – do we take out debt to cover the purchase?
If you’ve seen any of the work I’ve done over the last year, you’ll know that I’m an advocate for being informed on what our community leaders are doing. Up to this point, I haven’t shared many opinion pieces, like this one.
Yet considering the amount of taxpayer money involved, and the remaining questions that haven’t been answered yet, I wanted to look at what we know on this vote. Going into Tuesday’s vote, here’s what we as the community know and what we don’t know.
We’ve heard the $508,554.65 price for the twelve vehicles. That was procured through the Statewide Contract 209, which you can read more on here. But that official quote or a delivery timeline hasn’t been publicly posted yet.
We know the interest is $22,265. But is a loan necessary? The capital fund has money available. And with the consideration of purchasing the properties adjacent to the park, an item that was also discussed at the work session, there was no mention of debt involved. Couldn’t the city do the same for the police vehicles – skip the debt purchase and save the $22,265?
We know there’s currently eight spare vehicles. Could any of those eight be sold to offset the $508,554.65 cost? I’d imagine so but I haven’t seen that discussed nor how much money could be available from that sell.
One of the big aspects of this is a true fleet replacement schedule. In both work sessions, it was briefly brought up but not talked about at length. Is there a fleet-wide replacement schedule in place? How does 4, 6, or 12 new vehicles affect that timeline? I’d imagine that all 12 new vehicles would need replacing around the same time down the road.
For me, the process here is the most worrying part of the debate. It’s a super short time frame. The proposal was first mentioned in the January work session. It’s discussed again in February and then a vote set for a few days after that. We saw one article on it in the Times. As of the Sunday before the vote when I write this, there’s not an official proposal available to the public that answers all of these questions. We should have a publicly released proposal that the community can consider at least 30 days before a vote.
Yes, we voted for our aldermen to make decisions like this for us. That’s part of a representative government – not everything needs to go to a city-wide vote. But when we’re looking at a half million loan, I think we need to go through the normal budget process, consider all the options available, and give our community more time to call and talk with our aldermen. The more information we have – the more data we have – the better the decision will be when it comes to spending $508,554.65.
I want to encourage you to talk to our aldermen – call, email, or write a letter and drop it off at the municipal building. We’ve heard from the aldermen before on how important they see your voice in the community. Now’s a great time to use that voice and help them decide how to vote come this Tuesday.
You’ll find the board’s contact info here. Contact your aldermen and show up at the board meeting – Tuesday February 12th at 5pm in the municipal building auditorium.
Updated February 11, 2019: Information included on the Statewide Contract used by the city government for purchasing vehicles without going to bid.