By PETER HUSSMANN
Some extenuating circumstances led the Newton City Council to reject the low bid for the purchase of two police vehicles and rather go with the highest local bid, a move that adds $7,600 to the total cost.
City staff had recommended the council approve the low bid from Noble Ford in Newton for $48,164 for two Ford Police Interceptors, a new, somewhat smaller model that replaces the Crown Victoria, long a staple of police departments nationwide.
Newton Chief of Police Jeff Hoebelheinrich, however, said he had some concerns about the new Ford model and asked to be allowed to purchase Chevy Caprices instead, a more pricey vehicle.
First, the chief said in a memo included in the council report, the Caprice has the largest interior of the the three models on which bids were received - Dodge Chargers were also priced - the "biggest reason" in his argument.
"This is exteremely important due to the fact that this vehicle is the 'office' for our officers for their 10-hour shifts," the chief wrote, noting the bulky vests and holsters officers were while also typing on their in-car computers, answering radio calls and doing report work while sitting in the front seat of their vehicles.
"I feel it is extremely important to give our officers the most room possible to do these taks, as well as trying tomake that 10-hour shift more comfortable and less straining on their bodies," he continued. "Due to all of the extra equipment placed in the front seats section, I believe that there is an added safety benefit for the officers by having extra room in the front compartment."
Chief Hoebelheinrich was also concerned about the reliability of the Interceptor as a new model vehicle.
"My biggest concern with the new Fords is that they are untested," he said. "This is a brand new model and I do not personally know of any police department that has purchased and utilized this vehicle yet, as I don't believe they have any on the road at this time. I would prefer to let other departments be the guinea pigs and let them test the new Fords and after the company gets the bugs out, after it has been road tested, I would look at the Fords at that time. There is just too much unknown about this vehicle and how it will hold up to the rigors of law enforcement use."
The chief also noted that the price quoted by Noble for the Interceptor was for a front wheel drive vehicle and its price would increase by approximately $1,000 for each car by switching to a rear-wheel drive model.
Council members said they were "torn" over the issue. While they could understand the chief's arguments, the price of the Caprice from Noble totaled $55,770, well above the low bid for the Ford Interceptor but still within the $60,000 budgeted for the purchase. In addition, should the city buy the Chevys through the bid received from Karl Chevrolet in Des Moines, they could knock $2,000 off the Noble cost.
A motion by Steve Mullan to buy one Caprice and one Interceptor went nowhere.
Council member Mike Hansen broke the stalemate by moving to buy the two Chevy Caprices from Noble, keeping in mind the additional cost for switching the Interceptors to rear wheel drive models.
The motion passed on a 5 - 1 vote with councilman Dennis Julius voting no.