The city displayed a "Terminator"-like attitude toward local dealerships when it purchased cars to replace the Lawrence Police Department's "Robocop" patrol vehicles, a local dealer says.
This summer, Lawrence police are retiring their Chevrolet Caprice patrol cars which are derisively known by some officers as "Robocop" cars because of their unconventional design and bringing on line 11 new Ford Crown Victorias purchased from Shawnee Mission Ford Inc.
But the Crown Victorias won't be getting a royal welcome from Leroy Poage, general manager for Sonny Hill Chevrolet-Geo, 3400 S. Iowa, who says he was upset that the city wouldn't purchase police cars from a local dealership.
"My position is that they ought to buy locally," Poage said. "It doesn't make a difference what they're buying paper towels, toilet paper, whatever."
CITY MANAGER Mike Wildgen said the city followed a longstanding policy of accepting the "lowest and best" bid.
City records show that Shawnee Mission Ford submitted the low bid of $147,471 among seven dealerships that competed for the contract. Sonny Hill's bid was $157,958, and the only other Lawrence dealership that sought the contract, Laird Noller, submitted a bid of $157,760. City officials awarded the contract in March.
Police Lt. Ed Brunt said the cars currently are being fitted with sirens, police radios and other special equipment and should be on the road sometime this summer. Brunt said contracts for police vehicles normally are awarded to the low bidder, although exceptions sometimes are made if a higher bid will bring better cars with more options.
This wasn't the first year the police car contract has been awarded to an out-of-town dealership. The current vehicles, for instance, came from a Kansas City area business.
A SPOKESMAN for Laird-Noller declined to comment about the contract.
Poage admitted that Sonny Hill's offer was the highest among the Chevy dealers who bid for the project. However, he said, his bid "had zero profit in it."
And bottom-line price, Poage said, shouldn't be the city's only consideration in awarding contracts.
"We're the people who are paying taxes," he said. "The dollars in tax money that we generate for this city is phenomenal."
Police Chief Ron Olin declined to comment beyond saying that the police department abided by city guidelines in recommending the Shawnee Mission Ford bid to city officials.
He referred questions to Wildgen, who Saturday night said that every two or three years the city is questioned about its competitive bidding policy.
"THE CITY commission has looked at it in the past and always has decided that the lowest and best bid is the best," Wildgen said.
As recently as April the commission discussed whether local vendors should be given preferential treatment when the city awards contracts. Nevertheless, Wildgen said, the policy remains.