City ramps up vehicle purchases to replace aging fleet; more than $1.75 million in vehicle purchases approved thus far in December
I know for most of us, December is marked as the month for accumulating five-pound cheese logs, yule logs and the multitude of other fine culinary logs. But for the city of Lawrence, December is the month for new vehicle purchases. Thus far in December — once commissioners approve a few items at their Tuesday meeting — the city will have purchased $1.75 million worth of vehicles.
December has long been a month for vehicle purchases for the city. Departments either have budget money they’ve held in reserve until the end of the year, or else they have money in the 2016 budget for vehicles, and they want to make a December order so the vehicles will arrive early in the new year.
But it looks like the city has stepped up its vehicle purchasing program this year, which wouldn’t be surprising. During the last budget sessions, city officials warned commissioners that the city’s vehicle and equipment fleet was really suffering. For years, the city has postponed making vehicle purchases in order to balance some budgets. Back in April, we reported that the average age of the city’s vehicle fleet in recent years had risen to 9.5 years, up from about 5.8 years in 1999. In June, we reported that the city’s recommended budget would include an extra $1.25 million in vehicle and equipment purchases in 2016 compared with 2015.
It looks like the ramp-up is beginning in December. I did a few quick calculations and the city — thus far in December — has placed orders for $1.75 million worth of equipment compared with about $900,000 in December 2015.
As for what the city is buying, here’s a look:
• Two rear load refuse trucks for the sanitation division from Downing Sales and Service: $230,164. The city received bids from four vendors. The city took the lowest bid.
• Two half-ton pickup trucks for the Public Works Department from Laird Noller Ford: $45,118. The city received bids from two vendors. Laird Noller was higher than Shawnee Mission Ford’s, but fell within the 1 percent local preference policy. The city has a policy that if a locally based company comes within 1 percent of the low bid that the city commission has the option of taking the bid from the local bidder. The thought process is the city and the community receive more benefit from shopping local than they save by the 1 percent price difference.
• 14 police utility interceptors — the sport utility police vehicles that have become standard in the police department — from Laird Noller Ford: $378,559. Laird Noller was the only bid received.
• One half-ton 4×4 extended cab truck for the police department’s investigation’s division from Laird Noller Ford: $26,008. The city received bids from two vendors. Laird Noller’s was the highest but was within the 1 percent local preference policy.
• One Ford Transit prisoner transport van for the Police Department from Shawnee Mission Ford: $43,813. The city received bids from two vendors and took the lowest bid.
• One Ford Transit standard van for the Police Department from Laird Noller Ford: $23,972. The city only received one bid.
• Two 4×4 pickup trucks for the Utilities Department from Laird Noller Ford: $45,118. The city received bids from two vendors. Laird Noller’s was the highest, but fell within the 1 percent local preference policy.
• Four dump trucks equipped with snow plows and salt and sand spreaders: $636,588. The city didn’t go out for bid on the project, but rather took advantage of a bid that the Kansas Department of Transportation had received for dump truck/snow plow vehicles.
• One compact SUV Ford Escape for the Planning and Development Services Department: $23,444. The city received bids from three vendors. Laird Noller’s was the No. 2 bid in terms of price, but it was within the 1 percent local preference policy.
• Two F-350 and one F-450 truck from Laird Noller Ford for the Parks and Recreation Department: $114,762. Laird Noller was the only bidder on the project.
• One automated, side load refuse truck for the city’s sanitation division from Downing Sales and Service: $187,747. The city did not bid the project but rather took advantage of a bid that already was received by a regional sanitation cooperative.
We’ll see what the rest of the month brings, and also what the rest of 2016 brings, in terms of new vehicle and equipment purchases. It will be interesting to see if it brings a greater number of bidders. It was interesting to note the low number of bidders for some of these projects. Laird Noller was the only local car dealer that even placed a bid for any of the vehicles purchased in December.
In some cases, the city is pretty committed to a particular brand of vehicle. For example, the city sees some value in having all Fords for its police car fleet because it makes training and maintenance more efficient. But why other local bidders didn’t emerge for some of the pickup truck purchases and the SUV purchase for the Planning and Development Services Department is unclear to me.
But, I’m unclear about a lot of things this time of year. Don’t even get me started guessing what that last log was.