Commissioners split on vehicle to purchase for Sheriff’s Office

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
On a split vote, Rowan County commissioners approved the purchase of nine 2009 Dodge Chargers for the Sheriff’s Office, rejecting questions about the vehicle choice and fuel efficiency.
The approval to buy the cars from Ilderton Dodge in High Point was tucked away Monday in the consent agenda that rarely provokes discussion or debate.
Finance Director Leslie Heidrick sought routine approval to buy the vehicles through the state contract at $21,661 each or a total cost of $194,949.
As the board was prepared to vote to approve the consent agenda, which included five items, Commissioner Tina Hall asked why the county opted for the Dodge Chargers when other vehicles ó Chevrolet Impalas ó were cheaper.
Hall cited the state contract purchase list, which includes prices for several law enforcement vehicles ó Chargers, Impalas, Crown Victorias and Chevrolet Tahoes.
Hall noted the Impala price was $17,915. She also noted the Impala is a front-wheel drive vehicle as opposed to the Charger, which is rear-wheel drive.
“Why are we going with the more expensive?” Hall asked.
Heidrick said the Sheriff’s Office makes that choice, adding that the money is in the budget and approved by the board. “They feel that (Chargers) are a better car,” Heidrick said, passing off other questions to the Sheriff’s Office.
“Was mileage a consideration?” asked Hall.
Heidrick said she had no information.
Chairman Arnold Chamberlain summoned Major Tim Bost, who was attending the meeting.
“I’m not the right person,” said Bost, “I can’t give specifics.”
Bost noted the Highway Patrol rarely uses Impalas.
But he didn’t offer an endorsement for Dodge Chargers. “Personally, I’m a Crown Vic man.”
Bost advised commissioners he’d prefer that Sheriff George Wilhelm speak on the issue.
Commissioner Jim Sides suggested delaying the vote until the Oct. 4 meeting.
Heidrick noted that the price on the cars is good until Oct. 1.
At that point, the board approved the consent agenda, including buying the Chargers, on a 3-2 vote. Chamberlain, Vice Chairman Chad Mitchell and Jon Barber voted to approve, with Hall and Sides voting against.
“Those questions could have been asked before we got at this table,” Chamberlain said.
In an unusually short session, the board:
– Approved a permit to exceed the noise ordinance for Living Word Spirited Baptist Church at 2106 in West C St.
– Approved an offer of $1,500 from Nancy and Paris Goodnight for an unbuildable lot in the Spring Valley subdivision.
– Approved a proclamation declaring Oct. 5-11 Mental Illness Awareness Week.
– Renamed a property at 1225 Pine Ridge Road to 1035 Whispering Pine Drive due to problems EMS had attempting to respond to a call.
– Changed the address of a property at 557 Eller Road to 390 Country Place Drive for better emergency response.
– Renamed a road off the 300 block of Hoffman Lane to Golden Lane.