Hillsdale Police To Purchase New SUV

The Hillsdale Police Department will be the proud new owners of a 2017 Ford Explorer Police Interceptor thanks to approval of the purchase by the city council at their Monday night meeting.

Three bids were received for the new vehicle from Cole Ford Lincoln of Coldwater, Signature Ford Lincoln of Owosso, and Ken Stillwell Ford Lincoln of Hillsdale.  The lowest bid came from Cole Ford Lincoln at $25,840.72 with a bit of a caveat, as Police Chief Scott Hephner explained:

“Yvonne [Strauss] and myself went through item-by-item on the bid return to make sure they met what the bid specifications were with the intent of verifying that and if there were any anomalies, if you will, and documenting those so that you guys can use that to base your decision on.”

“The only anomaly, which I documented in the memo, was from Cole Ford.  There are four levels of spotlight packages.  Our bid specification was for the lowest cost spotlight package.  They actually bid the highest cost one, but were still the lowest bid.”

“They were all within 3% of each other [in cost] based on the base prices that came in with the bid,” he added.

Councilperson Brian Watkins noted that a previous vehicle purchase had taken advantage of a state purchasing contract, which Hephner clarified was the base price for standard police vehicles negotiated by the state, but Cole Ford Lincoln’s bid actually came in under that state-negotiated minimum.

Councilperson Tim Dixon asked where maintenance would take place.  Hephner said that the SUV’s, being built on sturdier truck frames rather than the passenger cars used in the past, haven’t needed much maintenance, but most general jobs like oil changes go to Parney’s Car Care, while major repairs are covered under warranty and will go to Ken Stillwell.

Councilperson Bruce Sharp noted that the SUV’s are better suited for the job to begin with.

“I know they’ve had very good luck with these Explorers on the lovely streets we have here in the City of Hillsdale; that the Dodge Charger is really not meant for the streets of Hillsdale.  It’s a natural speed bump we have here in town.”

“Same with all the private, privately-owned Dodge Chargers,” Councilman Matt Bell added.

“Well, basically, yeah!” Sharp threw in.  “You see the State Police will drive them because they’re on the highways more than anywhere else.  Of course the roads are gonna be a little better – most highways.  But around here… it’s basically a truck [the Explorer].  You drive a truck around town, you’ll get along a lot better than you can in a Dodge Charger.  So it does make sense, and like [Hephner] said, we could get maybe two years more out of it, which saves us some money.  Maybe you won’t have to come to us next year and say you need another car.”

“Don’t hold your breath,” Hephner joked.

For the record, the information in the council meeting packet clearly states that this vehicle purchase is included in the 2016-2017 city budget, and the amount budgeted was $35,000, more than $9,000 over Cole Ford Lincoln’s bid.

Councilman Bell asked if there was any reason why special consideration was not given to Ken Stillwell, given that they are the local Ford dealership.

“That comes from my conscience,” Hephner replied.  “Our department is down officers, we require some of our officers to buy their own equipment to protect our community, and because there are all these financial aspects, I cannot in good conscience or faith recommend paying more money for the same product.  What you guys choose to do based on policy is completely up to you, and I support that.  But if you’re asking me for my recommendation, I can justify that [decision], because that’s what it comes down to.”

There was additional discussion amongst the council regarding the 3% difference localism rule, which guides the council to choose from local bidders if available when sealed bid amounts are within 3% of each other.  Councilperson Patrick Flannery noted that the difference in this case jumps to 4.4% in favor of Cole Ford Lincoln when the more expensive spotlight package is replaced with the least expensive package that the city had initially sought.

With that in mind, the council voted unanimously to approve Cole Ford Lincoln’s bid with the amendment, on City Manager David Mackie’s recommendation, of replacing the more expensive spotlight package with the least expensive package.

As an aside, Councilman Bell asked if the decision to change to the black-and-white color scheme was based in any specific reasoning, as he feels the colors are more intimidating than calming and would prefer the more traditional blue-and-white scheme.  Hephner said that he was not part of the decision-making process behind the purchase of the first vehicle with the black-and-white scheme, but he opted to continue it for the sake of standardization.  Hephner noted, however, that he was not tied to it, and if the council decided to change it, he would facilitate that.  Councilperson Sharp added later that he preferred the black-and-white scheme and that it was an improvement over the various colors of cars that the police department used to have.

Puchase of the new vehicle was to take place Tuesday, and Hephner said he expects the new vehicle to be on the road by October of this year.