Editorial Letters to the Community

A Few Thoughts on the FPD Vehicle Purchase Vote

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:

“I know that we’ve got some serious problems with vehicles. They’re getting worse every day – it’s getting to where it’s hard to keep them on the street … I’m convinced there’s a way we could do this, solve all of our transportation problems, within the next few months and save the taxpayers money.”

– Alderman Danny Bryant

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.

11 comments on “A Few Thoughts on the FPD Vehicle Purchase Vote

  1. Kenneth Yarbrough

    I agree 100%. I worked for the city fire dept. 25 years and the office heads of each dept. in the city at that time were given a capital improvement budget with allocations for future need equipment. That is how fire trucks were purchased after receiving bids for equipment meeting specifications submitted.

  2. Laura Redding

    I do trust our aldermen to act in our best interests. But you’re right – this should be a community discussion rather than limited to two work sessions held on Thursday mornings when most of us are at work. I’d like to see more effort from this board in being open and transparent ahead of time rather than doing the minimum legally required. I could easily see Alderman Bryant and others talking to the Elk Valley Times, the Fayetteville Weekly, FPU Channel 6, or even taking to their own public pages like Facebook to talk about this purchase and why it’s needed. They were elected by us, work for us, and should keep us in the loop on things ahead of important votes like this. We see our state and federal elected officials keeping us up-to-date on proposed legislation. Why can’t that happen here at the local level?

  3. In the last 4 years we have purchased 2 new Tahoes PER YEAR. Yes we may need to up the number but 12?!! Then the Alderman that come down the road later will have to figure out how to fund 8-12 because they’ll be ready to get new ones all at the same time. In addition, borrowing money for it is absurd. The city has so much extra money that they gave the state $1 million to manage for them so they would hope to get 1.5-2% interest on it. And yet we’re spending $500-600K and paying 4.5%. They are incompetent if they say that we are saving money by this purchase plan. What it boils down to is a byproduct of nepotism. One of the Alderman’s relatives just joined the police department. It would look bad if a rookie got a new Tahoe so to fix that he’s for buying everyone a new one. Really?

  4. Under no circumstance should the board make a purchase amounting to over a half million dollars outside of budget. Period. Who in their right mind could think that this is sound business, intelligent government, or honorable representation? Shame on any member of our city council who votes in favor of this. There is a proper way to do this that is respectful toward the taxpayers and the voters. Not via a manufactured emergency and thin, sketchy reasoning. Come on, city government, think through this and do the right thing.

  5. David Mingia

    Chase: Thanks for the post and especially thanks for noting this is an opinion article not straight out news. I agree the size, speed, and process of this purchase is questionable. I have e-mailed the mayor and alderman and have heard back from all but two. If this were a small purchase I would just say “let it go” but, $500k and a loan for something that, in my opinion, should be in the business as usual budgeting process is worth a pause and communicate. I hope the board is listening. We shall see.

  6. Mike Hopson

    I spent almost 40 years as an employee of the Fayetteville Police Department. In that time we went from running 3 vehicles 24 X 7 X 365 with one spare vehicle and one vehicle issued to the Chief. 2 new vehicles were purchased every year to replace the older high mileage vehicles and the Chief typically got one of the new vehicles. Over time it was realized by leadership that assigning vehicles to each officer would allow vehicles to last longer and maintenance could be accomplished in a more timely manner. For several years used law enforcement vehicles with average mileage of 100,000 miles were purchased and assigned to officers. In 1993 aldermen voted to purchase 6 new vehicles to be issued to officers. Vehicles were purchased on state contract that typically provides cities and counties with the best prices for fleet vehicles. If my memory serves me correctly the total for 6 vehicles and new equipment was around $80,000. In the process of purchasing these new vehicles new emergency lights, sirens and radios had to be purchased. All of the older surplus vehicles were equipped with used light bars, sirens and recycled radios that were found at various public safety vendors. Officers were very proud of the vehicles that were issued to them be it new or used but common sense says that new was better. There was a plan in place in 1993 to purchase at least 2 new vehicles per year to continue to replace older obsolete vehicles. At some point in the last 10 years or so there were years that no vehicles were purchased at all. This set back the replacement cycle to a point that there are many vehicles that have served way past a time of common sense to keep them on the road. I remember installing emergency equipment on 3 of the vehicles that are currently serving as police vehicles. The last vehicles that I had the pleasure of wiring up were 2001 models. I do not work for the city now and nor do I own property now in the city but in saying that I support the timely purchase of vehicles to be driven by our Fayetteville Police Officers. There are times when our Officers have vehicle problems happen during their shifts and they are forced to try to find a spare vehicle that will start and run for the rest of their shifts. Many times the first spare that is tried must be parked if it even will start.

    Catching up with getting reliable vehicles should be a priority in that if vehicles are ordered today it will be many months before delivery and setup to get them on the road. Thanks to the Chief for his continued calls for reliable vehicles that will help keep the citizens of Fayetteville safe.

    In reading comments concerning this matter I almost get the feeling that there is a belief by some that some type of conspiracy is being conducted by the Alderman concerning vehicle purchases. And I don’t believe there is anything of a conspiracy except trying to bring Fayetteville Police Officers the vehicles that they need to be able to respond to calls. It is sad that the vehicle inventory has been allowed to be reduced to many vehicles with high mileage and very expensive repair problems.

    • Nice summary Mike but the purchase of 12 units at one time and financing it at a cost of $22000 in interest is a poor financial decision. My one question to you is, why all of a sudden would ONE Alderman bring this up when we wouldn’t fund more than 2 in one fiscal year and such an aggressive proposal was never suggested at any of the past 4 year’s annual strategic planning meeting? It may not be a “conspiracy” but it definitely has symptoms of a violation of the Sunshine Law and a hint of nepotism. Not to mention buying support from city employees for the election in 2020. And what about using some of the reserve money for sidewalk repair, drainage issues, and other infrastructure?

  7. I absolutely believe our first responders need the best equipment we can provide them. I’m one hundred percent behind replacing any vehicles that need to be replaced. But the part that causes me to pause is the process. $500k is a lot of taxpayer money to not go through the normal budget. We just held a public hearing last month on floodplain dev. Shouldn’t we hold a public hearing on something as big as a $500k purchase?

    • One of the most important elements of local government is the ability to provide input to our elected officials on all topics but more importantly, major funding issues. And quess what…rarely does anyone show up for public hearings. They already have at least a 4:2 vote in favor of this, so public hearing or not, it will be a done deal unless people start calling the Alderman.

      • I emailed them all today encouraging them to give this more consideration before taking a vote. And included questions. Got three responses. One said “thanks for your input”, another indicated that the vehicles were past due but they did believe a plan should be put in place. The third didn’t include a response at all. Not sure what that was about. That leaves 4 that didn’t respond at all. Our voted officials at their best. Lol

  8. Michael Gooding

    Replacing half your fleet in one year is incompetent fleet management. Borrowing money for a fleet purchase is abuse of tax payer $. There should be a fleet management plan in place and all fleet purchases should be part of a multi year capital improvement plan and part of the annual budget. This is common sense and not that hard to do.

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