Purchasing Policy Procedures Cause Council Clash
In an effort to protect the borough, Shrewsbury Councilman Bill Dodge proposed to re-examine the public bid procedure and the definition of 'emergency.'
Shrewsbury Councilman Bill Dodge said his only intention is to ensure that the borough acts wisely when it comes to major expenditures. So when council approved the purchase of new first response vehicles with emergency funds, he had to ask, was it really an emergency?
Dodge introduced a resolution at the borough’s recent council meeting calling for a new purchasing policy and procedures. While he said he doesn’t dispute the need for new emergency vehicles, acknowledging the fact that the fire department’s pumper had even failed during a fire response, Dodge said the emergency tag shouldn’t supersede proper planning.
“When there’s an emergency you need to move quickly,” Dodge said. “But the documentation (for the fire truck) was not significant enough. I think we need to communicate better with the fire department to document ongoing issues so we have a better understanding of what we need.”
Late in February, council approved two new truck bids for a new rescue unit and fire engine. The combined age of the two vehicles was nearly 50 years old, and the cost of replacing both came out to around $591,000. Dodge, however, said the borough puts itself at risk when it doesn’t go through the proper steps when approving capital expenditures.
Councilman Peter Meyer objected to the new policy and was the lone council member to vote against the proposed resolution. The fire department’s trucks have been in a state of disrepair for some time and for the past four or five years the department has requested new equipment to replace them.
Dodge, head of the borough's finance committee, countered by saying that the council never received anything explicit about the need to replace the trucks, saying poor planning and a lack of proper documentation on the part of the borough are not enough to constitute an emergency.
An issue with how the borough responds to emergencies isn't just a matter of proper documentation. It's about justifying the cost, too. Dodge said greater notice of the need to replace the emergency vehicles could have led the borough to perhaps pursue better bids, additional funding sources, or allocate borough funds in a more responsible manner.
"You can't just have a liberal interpretation of 'emergency,'" he said.