BAY CITY, MI — Expect a battle about brand loyalty at Bay City Hall Monday night.
Pointing to a nearly 33-year-old resolution that says the Bay City Commission must purchase General Motors vehicles, city staff is reluctantly recommending the commission approve the purchase of four new Chevrolet Tahoes for the Public Safety Department, even though the patrol vehicles cost nearly $37,000 more than previously recommended Ford Explorers.
Bay City Manager Rick Finn said he learned of the May 1983 resolution earlier this month that he interprets as saying the city must purchase GM products for all vehicles under 6,000 pounds. Last month, he recommended the City Commission purchase four Ford Explorers to replace the department’s aging Chevrolet Tahoes, all of which have more than 100,000 miles and are more than 5 years old.
Finn’s now hoping the City Commission will amend or rescind the resolution and opt for the cost savings by purchasing the Ford Explorers.
“The city is not in the best fiscal condition right now,” he said. “People support both brands, GM and Ford, but this is a significant amount of money we’re talking about. If it was a few thousands dollars, I’d say let’s stick with the Chevys, but $37,000 is a lot of money. The Ford is the wiser decision.”
A vote takes place at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 15, at City Hall, 301 N. Washington Ave.
Not all commissioners are in agreement with Finn.
Commissioner Ed Clements, 8th Ward, said by purchasing Fords, the city would be “turning its back on its largest taxpayer,” referring to GM, which has operated a plant in Bay City for nearly 100 years.
“I’m a firm believer that if we want to have a strong city, we need to invest in ourself,” said Clements, who owns two Chevrolet vehicles. “If we don’t support our local manufacturers, then we set a bad example.
“$37,000 sounds like a lot of money when you talk about this whole thing of being fiscally responsible, but is $37,000 worth it over the course of time? This community needs to support its largest taxpayer.”
While both vehicles are “Pursuit Certified,” the recommendation isn’t entirely an apples to apples purchase, although city and police officials have said both vehicles are suitable for officers.
The city is recommending to purchase two, two-wheel drive Tahoes and two, four-wheel drive Tahoes. If the commission opts for Ford, they would purchase four, four-wheel drive units. The Tahoes have a 5.3-liter Ecotec V-8 engine, while the Explorers carry a 3.7-liter Flex Fuel V-6.
The city was quoted the following breakdown for the vehicles:
• 2 Chevrolet Tahoes 2WD: $35,762 each; Total: $71,524
• 2 Chevrolet Tahoes 4WD: $38,522 each; Total: $77,044
• Total price for Tahoes: $148,468
• 4 Ford Explorers 4WD: $27,546 each
• Total price for Explorers: $110,184
It would cost an additional $53,576 to equip the Tahoes with police equipment, such as sirens, lighting and an interior cage, according to a bid from Brighton-based Cruisers Inc. The equipment cost for the Explorer is slightly higher at $55,396.
Funds for the purchase are appropriated in the city’s Motor Equipment Revolving Fund. The equipment costs are paid for using city drug forfeiture funds.
Commission President Andrew Niedzinski, 3rd Ward, says commissioners should only be representing the taxpayers — not a car brand.
“The cheaper option is what we should be doing,” he said. “These are both American-made cars, but the Ford is saving us money.”
Commissioners Lynn Stamiris, 1st Ward, and Brentt Brunner, 4th Ward, is also in favor of going with Ford.
“We are a GM town, and brand loyalty and fiscal responsibility are two very strong points,” Brunner said. “At times, though, they can be very conflicting points as well. It’s a hard decision, but we need to be fiscally responsible.”
Commissioners Jim Irving, 5th Ward, and John Davidson, 6th Ward, say they’re undecided at this point.
“I would prefer GM since it’s in our hometown, but I want to know more, still,” Irving said.
“My initial thought is to go with GM if it’s possible,” Davidson said. “In the future, I’d like to see how we can get the cost down on future purchases of GM products.”
Commissioner David Terrasi, 2nd Ward, has said he’s in favor of saving the city money by going with Ford, but is conflicted about his vote. His father, he said, is retired from the Ford Motor Co. and his family continues to receive profit sharing checks from the automaker. He also has received discounts on the Ford vehicles he has purchased.
“I need to figure out if my vote would be considered a conflict of interest,” he said.
Commissioner Kerice Basmadjian, 7th Ward, was unable to be reached for comment.
Commissioner Larry Elliott, 9th Ward, is also undecided on which vehicle to purchase, but said the 1983 resolution needs to be changed or rescinded.
“That resolution doesn’t factor in the budget,” he said. “I can’t see buying a GM product and spending all of this money without considering the budget because a resolution says so.
“How much more do we spend on a GM product just because it’s a GM product?”