by nathan oster
The Greybull Police Department will soon be getting new vehicles, but not the number or body style that they requested during this year’s budget talks.
Council members on Monday decided the several-month-long, Sedan vs. SUV debate on Monday, voting 4-1 with Scott Mattis in the dissent to move forward with the purchase of three new Ford Tauruses.
An ad calling for bids for the three vehicles, either 2015 or 2016 model year, appears in this week’s issue. The town plans to open bids on Monday, July 27.
During the budget-setting process, Police Chief Bill Brenner cited skyrocketing maintenance costs for the five current Dodge Chargers in the town’s fleet as the primary reason behind his request for five new vehicles.
While color was a non-issue from the start — Brenner said again Monday that he’d go with whatever the council wanted, be it white or silver — the chief and his sergeant, Greg Hess, did express a strong desire for SUVs, rather than sedans, because they get around better on the ice and snow and have more ground clearance.
Hess had also provided documentation from other departments that switched to SUVs and found that, while requiring slightly more gas to operate, they held up and retained their resale value longer.
Administrator/Finance Director Paul Thur opened Monday’s discussion with an update on what he’d found since the last meeting.
In June, the council directed Thur and Mayor Miles Foley to select a mechanic to conduct inspections of all five of the town’s current police vehicles.
The mechanic was not present to share his conclusions, but Thur paraphrased. “He told me if it was his fleet, he’d replace them all.”
Thur was also asked to look into the financial repercussions of buying all five at once versus buying three this year and two more in a couple years.
He said buying three now and waiting on the other two “would put us in a better position” if the goal is to establish a rotation for vehicle replacements.
“From a financial perspective, there’s no comparison,” said Thur. “Buying five now is the way to go, based on a pure, financial head-to-head comparison.”
Councilman Scott Mattis initially moved for the council to purchase three new SUVs now and two more vehicles in Fiscal Year 2018, but after considerable discussion, it was voted down with only Mattis voting yes.
The council ultimately voted 4-1, this time with Mattis in the dissent, to purchase three Ford Tauruses.
Clay Collingwood was the most vocal councilman on the matter, reiterating that he wouldn’t support swapping out all five vehicles at one time.
He also led the charge to get sedans, rather than SUVs.
“I don’t like the message (an SUV) would send,” he said, advocating a return to white patrol cars with the lights on top of the vehicle, rather than inside.
Mattis and Collingwood also disagreed over the role the council should play in the selection of vehicles.
Mattis said Public Works bought more than $185,000 worth of equipment without any kind of council directives about either make or model.
Collingwood said he had, in fact, offered recommendations, but Mattis said there’s a difference between “recommending” and “telling.” Either way, Collingwood still felt it was “well within” his responsibilities as a council member.
Marvin Hunt said his opinions fell in line with Collingwood’s.
Foley said he preferred sedans too. He said Red Lodge has SUVs and they are “intimidating.” He added that he liked the appearance of a police car.
Hunt said when the new cars come in, he wants members of the community to be able to see the officers. He said he opposes any kind of tinting on the windows.
Brenner said that with the exception of the former K-9 vehicle, none of the town’s current fleet of vehicles has window tinting at the present time.