ROSSFORD – A months-long effort to order police cars hit another snag as council failed to pass an ordinance authorizing funding for purchases during Monday’s meeting.
The ordinance would have authorized the city to purchase three upgraded 2021 Ford Explorer EcoBoost Police Interceptors under a State of Ohio purchase contract for a total of $155,904.
“(The) Finance Director said we have the money, that we should pay cash for them and that in the long run it’s the cheapest way to buy police cars,” Mayor Neil McKinnon III said in a follow-up interview. “For some reason, the two members of the finance committee felt it should go through them first, that’s not how things work. … It’s about egos and feelings, not business.” “
The ordinance was recommended by the police chief, security committee and administration.
It was previously authorized through funding, but finance director Kelly O’Boyle found funding in the capital budget that could allow the city to buy the cars outright.
O’Boyle determined that the outright purchase would reduce the final cost and interest on any financing, totaling approximately $2,500.
The original authorization of procurement by way of financing, was approved with FY2021 appropriations.
Cars are undergoing final preparation for delivery at dealerships.
The approval to authorize payments with changes to the funding ordinance never made it to the vote for passage, as the rule did not pass with the five votes required for three readings of the ordinance. The vote was 4–3, against which councilors Robert Densick, Robert Russe and Jerry Stajek voted.
After the failure, McKinnon recommended the council take a second vote, asking whether one of the three would change their vote.
“You already know that it’s cheaper to pay in cash than in finance,” he said.
“It’s a complete miscarriage of what happened here,” Densik said.
Things may be different at the next council meeting on September 27.
Finance committee meeting was held on Wednesday. This included council members Russe, Densick and Larry Oberndorf Sr. and they agreed to move forward with the new finance method.
Staczek is not on the finance committee.
At that meeting, O’Boyle discussed funding. Densik said he learned that there is a huge amount that is not burdensome within the capital budget.
“Our request was to send it to (the finance committee). It is the committee that is involved in these discussions. There was no such discussion between us before. This was only a recommendation of the Finance Director. We had no comment on capital fund balances. We didn’t have any discussions on the investment manager,” Densik said.
McKinnon and Councilwoman Caroline Zuchowski-Eckel, who chairs the safety committee, see it differently.
“I was told this morning that they no longer have a problem with it,” McKinnon said after Wednesday’s decision. “He was told the same things that he was told on Monday. It was not a big decision. The decision was made months ago. We didn’t need to hold another meeting to find out that paying a lump sum was the most economical way for them. I think some people make dragons so they can kill them.”
At the end of Monday’s meeting, Zuchowski-Eckel remarked about the vote, indignation and anger evident in her voice.
“I’m not into nitpicking. I’m the bottom line,” she said. “I’m sorry for yelling. …I’m disgusted.”
She talked about the rotation of police vehicles, where the oldest of the seven-car fleet is usually replaced. What they have found is that most older cars are costly to repair and are often not available for use as often as they are in the shop, she said.
“Technically, it’s not the council’s responsibility to tell the city how to pay for things, they just approve things to buy. So the council should just say, ‘Yes, buy police cars’. And then the finance director should let them decide the best way to buy. But this finance committee likes to be able to make that decision,” Zuchowski-Eckel.
New police vehicles are hard to find today, months-long back-orders are becoming the norm, he estimated the cars would sit at dealerships, unpaid, for at least three more weeks, but it could be six weeks, If the council is not able to waive both readings.
“The dealership may think twice when we go to buy the next set of cars. They may think they will be sitting an extra month or two, so the price could definitely be higher,” she said, referring to future purchases. “I think our new director of finance is sharp and she is doing her job. I don’t know why we would second guess his….why can’t we go by his recommendation? It’s like guessing experts.”
He compared it to a similar situation of repeated delays in the purchase of a new fire truck, which took almost a year and a half to go through the approval process.
“The finance committee gave us trouble for months and months and months,” Zuchowski-Eckel said. “I think they got ahead. I just don’t understand. If they knew it would be a savings for the citizens. … I don’t think they’re thinking about the functionality of the city and all the other departments that have one working together.
“That’s the frustrating part for me. It was being cut out that we were voting against it and it was not happening at all. It was a very simple request to go to an appropriate committee for review,” Densik said. said.