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Council overrides chief's car choice

By Staff
Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
Hartselle Police Department's three new cars will come from a local dealer, not from one in Huntsville.
The Hartselle City Council made the decision following weeks of discussions about the purchase of the three vehicles.
The original set of bids for the cars were written by the police department and, because of the items the department wanted on the cars, limited the purchase to basically Ford automobiles. The lowest bid under those terms came from a Huntsville auto dealership.
The council opted to rewrite the bid specs, expanding them to other types of autos.
After the bids were re-written, Abercrombie Chevrolet of Hartselle had the lowest bid with $17,690 per car, some $2,000 cheaper than the Huntsville Ford bid.
In spite of the savings, some city council members questioned the city requiring the police chief to re-write bid specs when it does not ask the same from other department heads.
"We (the city council) approved $25,000 for each of the three cars," Councilman Tom Chappell said. "We're glad a local dealer can provide what we need, but if we're going to micromanage these departments, we need to tell them that at budget time. If we're going to put stipulations in that we're only going to buy locally, we need to make that clear at the time."
Because the allocation for the cars was already in the budget, Police Chief Ron Merkh would have been able to purchase the cars without council approval and could let bids or purchase off the state bid list. He opted to go through the council, however, touching off the debate.
Councilman Allen Stoner said in the end, Merkh ended up paying for the council's change of heart.
"The police chief speced them as he wanted," Stoner said. "He could have taken it (the budget) and gone with it but he chose to run it by us. I would propose in the future we left the chief run his department, let the public works run its department and let park and recreation run its department."
Councilman Dick Carter said he felt the decision to purchase the Chevrolets from Abercrombie was a good decision, even if the police department wasn't getting the exact cars it wanted.
"These Chevys are a $7,000 savings and they are also being bought locally," Carter said. "If we can save money and buy locally, that's what we ought to do. We're asking people to tighten their belts and then we go off and spend more money than we have to.
"That doesn't make any sense."

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