Committee questions bid for new Highway Dept. SUV

Published 5:25 pm Wednesday, May 9, 2018

On Wednesday morning, members of the Financial Management Committee welcomed the county’s new Finance Director to his first official meeting and also questioned the need for a new vehicle being bid out by the Highway Department.

At the opening of the meeting, Carter County Finance Director Brad Burke addressed the committee and thanked them for the opportunity they had given him.

Burke said among his goals for the position are to increase the efficiency of the office while still providing excellent service to the county and its citizens.

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When the meeting discussion turned to the topic of bids the county currently has out, some members of the committee questioned a bid let out by the Highway Department for the purchase of a new sport utility vehicle.

Some members of the committee said they had been contacted by citizens who are concerned with the purchase of the new vehicle saying it would cost the county $55,000.

Deputy Finance Director Michael Kennedy informed the committee members the price of the vehicle is not yet known.

“The bids haven’t been opened,” Kennedy said. “We don’t know what the cost is going to be. I don’t know where that number came from.”

In a discussion on the matter, some committee members questioned the need for a new vehicle.

“Didn’t you just buy a truck,” Commissioner Bobbie Gouge-Dietz asked Road Superintendent Roger Colbaugh, who replied, “Four years ago.”

Financial Management Committee Chairman Danny Ward asked how many miles were on the truck Colbaugh is using, and the Road Superintendent said “It’s in the 50s,” indicating around 50,000 miles. Ward then asked if a new vehicle was necessary, and Colbaugh said it was not.

The plan, Colbaugh said, would be for him to use the SUV since he does not have to haul items as he drives around the county and pass along the truck he is driving to another employee at the Highway Department.

Colbaugh said he had also heard concerns from constituents about the bid for a new SUV.

“I think the only problem was that it’s a sports utility vehicle and not a pickup truck,” Colbaugh said.

Commissioner Brad Johnson questioned some of the specifications in the bid and whether those items were necessary for the job which Colbaugh performs, such as premium leather interior and 20-inch machined aluminum rims.

Colbaugh said the purchase of the SUV would not increase his budget as he has sufficient extra funds within his existing budget to cover the purchase.

“If  you’ve got that much money left over in your budget, maybe we should cut your budget,” Gouge-Dietz said.

Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey told his fellow committee members they did not have the authority to question Colbaugh regarding the need for the vehicle or the purchasing price.

“He’s the Road Superintendent. It’s his budget,” Humphrey said. “Let’s don’t overstep our bounds. It’s his management of his people. It’s outside your scope.”

Others on the committee did not agree with Humphrey’s position on the issue.

“This is exuberant,” Johnson said. “I don’t care if he is an office holder.”

Ward noted that all of the committee members are also citizens of Carter County, which he said made the purchase of the vehicle their business not only as members of the committee but as citizens.

“It is our business to take care of the money,” Ward said of the committee’s duties. “We have a truck that has 55,000 miles on it. Do we need another vehicle?”

Commissioner Charles VonCannon asked if Colbaugh had looked through the state contract pricing to see if he could find a better deal for the vehicle before putting it out to bid by the county. Colbaugh said he had not checked with the state bids to find a better deal.

“I’ll take that into consideration, Charlie,” Colbaugh said.

Kennedy again reminded the committee that the price for the vehicle is not yet known, and will not be known until the bids are opened on May 15.

“With the vehicle already out to bid, I recommend we open the bids and then compare it to the state contract,” Kennedy said.

The committee decided to take no action until after the bids are opened.