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  • Roger Sims, Journal Staff

Split vote on police cars pits one council member against another

Updated: Sep 9, 2022

PLEASANTON – The Pleasanton City Council voted Monday, Aug. 29, to purchase two new police cruisers for nearly $34,400 each, or a total of about $68,800.

The measure passed on a 3 to 1 vote with Council Members Aaron Portman, Joe Whitaker and Melanie Staton voting to purchase the vehicles and Rochelle Schreckhise casting her vote against it. Councilman Jake Mattingley did not attend the meeting.

Portman, who made the motion to make a $10,000 down payment on each vehicle and finance the remainder on a loan, was angered by Schreckhise’s “no” vote, and pointed out that she did not argue her side of the issue before the vote was taken.

Portman’s complaint came during Police Chief Tristan Snyder’s presentation of the steps he had taken to find a replacement for his department’s cars. Snyder said that one of the vehicles had about 98,000 miles on the odometer; the other one had 90,000 miles.

Noting that there was a shortage of suitable vehicles for patrolling, he said he had spent the last two weeks trying to chase down available cars without much luck.

He said that Landmark Dodge in Independence, Mo., had 35 2002 Dodge Charger Police Pursuit models on its lot at about $34,400 each, and the dealer didn’t know if any would be left by the end of the week. However, the dealer also expected additional vehicles that had been on order since November 2021 to arrive at the end of September.

City Administrator Teresa Whitaker noted that the vehicles in stock at Landmark had already been spoken for, but if any were left, Pleasanton could purchase them. If the city was not able to get one of the ones on the lot, they would likely be able to get one in November.

A dealer in Salem, Ind., had four of the same vehicles in stock, completely outfitted and ready for patrol, for about $51,000. Snyder said that included the light bar and bumper. He also said that some of the equipment from the current patrol cars could be fitted onto the new vehicles.

City Administrator Teresa Whitaker said it would cost about $6,400 per vehicle for police equipment and about $2,500 to install that equipment. Even with the extra installation cost, that still made the vehicles from Landmark about $10,000 less expensive.

Snyder said that if the city doesn’t purchase two vehicles now, it could be as much as 18 months before they would be available. By that time, the mileage on one of the current cars would be more than 200,000 and the other about 190,000 miles.

When asked if he wanted to buy two vehicles, the police chief said he would. He indicated that if he could buy two vehicles now, it would be another four to five years before the department would need to buy another vehicle.

“We were supposed to have one this year and then have one next year, but we haven’t gotten any yet because of the shortage,” Whitaker said, adding that the dealership just needed a letter from the city stating its intent to buy, whether it was for vehicles available this week or ones arriving in November.

Whitaker said that money has been held aside for the vehicle purchase scheduled this year. She also indicated that the city was looking at financing the balance of the cost of the vehicles over five years with a local bank.

She also urged the council to consider purchasing both cars, because it was obvious that after both she and the police chief had scoured the region they were so hard to find. “I don’t want to sound desperate and say, ‘We’ve got to get this,’ but we’d be foolish not to at $34,000 apiece.”

Following the vote to purchase two vehicles with a combined $20,000 down payment, Snyder finished his report, including the number of arrests over the past couple of weeks, but before the council went on, Portman voiced his frustration over the split vote.

“We sit here, we talk, we try to get to the bottom of stuff, and then we take a vote,” he said, adding that when a council member has a “no” vote without expressing her opinion on the matter, it doesn’t accomplish anything.

“I just don’t think we need two cop cars,” Schreckhise said, adding that the city had just recently purchased a police car.

Whitaker agreed that one had been recently purchased, but she pointed out that the city had three officers and only one good car, with the other two cars in the shop more than they were on the road much of the time.

“It’s not because we’re being careless with finances,” she said, “we’re trying to take advantage of an opportunity to get a car that is $5,000 … $6,000 less than the one we were initially going to get, and we have a chance to get two of them.”

“With that statement right there, your whole argument for voting “no” is null and void because you didn’t speak up and be a representative of the citizens,” Portman said to Schreckhise.

Snyder added that the two new cars would also be necessary when the department’s fourth officer would be on staff beginning next year.

But Portman took direct aim at Schreckhise saying, “We’ve been dealing with this for a year.”

At that point Mayor Mike Frisbie stepped in to quell the argument, saying that while the city needed the two cars, he felt that Schreckhise felt she was acting in the interest of the taxpayers’ money.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Schreckhise said that while she understood the argument for two new cars she felt the city had higher priorities than purchasing two cars instead of one.

“I feel that we need to make our streets, sewer and water a priority at this time,” she said. “I understand the need for new cars when they have high mileage, but we also have to watch our budget, and if the funding isn't there, we need to wait until it is. I don't want to spend our taxpayers money without a better plan to make the purchases.”

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