This Ford Escape hybrid is owned by the City of San Marcos Parks and Recreation Department. Photo by Andy Sevilla.
By ANDY SEVILLA
The San Marcos Fire Department (SMFD) has again come under scrutiny once again for requesting high dollar equipment.
SMFD Chief Les Stephens’ city issued vehicle is up for replacement and the department is requesting a hybrid half-ton full size pick-up crew cab truck amounting to $40,337.
Councilmember Ryan Thomason brought the matter to light as he pulled the expenditure off of a consent agenda, which could have gained approval without discussion. Instead, a motion by Councilmember John Thomaides to deny the purchase passed, 4-3, with Mayor Susan Narvaiz and Councilmembers Kim Porterfield and Fred Terry dissenting. The council directed city staff to further research alternatives and solicit other bids.
San Marcos Transportation Operations Manager Oscar Hairell said Stephens requested an efficient vehicle for the department that is capable of hauling trailers necessary for fire emergencies. Hairell said there is one other truck available in the fire department to haul trailers, which is used by the battalion chief.
“I think there’s other vehicles that can do this for $10,000 less,” Thomason said.
Councilmembers have directed city staff in venturing into purchasing hybrid vehicles when a replacement in necessary. But that directive comes at a higher price, Hairell said.
“We need to find more efficient ways to do business,” Councilmember Chris Jones said.
The agenda item called for $185,349.96 to purchase seven vehicles, six of which were pickup trucks and one utility vehicle. The $40,000 hybrid truck came in $12,000 more expensive than any other vehicle requested and doubled in cost of four of the vehicles.
Earlier this year Stephens, requested money from council to furnish a fire station. The request included $600 chairs and a $4,000 conference table. Though the measure passed, council directed city staff to conduct more diligent research in soliciting bids and finding comparable products at lower prices.
Hairell said the hybrid truck was a logical choice that he “stand(s) by,” based on its operational suitability and functionality, adding that it falls under the council’s request of lessening the carbon footprint.
Thomaides wanted assurance that the vehicle was, indeed, going to haul trailers and that the vehicle’s ability to haul trailers wasn’t being offered just as a selling point for making the purchase. Jones went a step further, saying Stephens should be provided with a sedan. Jones said the city’s fleet already includes enough trucks.
San Marcos has 498 total assets in fleet vehicles and equipment, including trucks, cars, lawn mowers, generators, and trailers, among others. Six of the vehicles are hybrids, five are powered with liquid propane, 45 use E85 fuel, 128 use diesel, 326 use regular unleaded gas, and there is one neighborhood electric vehicle. The remainder are trailers and trailer mounting equipment.
Narvaiz said she was confident that the request was in line with council direction.
City staff considered two bids for the hybrid truck. The winning bid came in at $40,337 from Caldwell County Chevrolet. A second bid came in at $41,706.30 from Domingo Vara Chevrolet in San Antonio.
Hairell said part of the elevated pricing is due to the fact that only Chevrolet produces hybrid half-ton trucks, thereby limiting the market.
Council approved the purchases of the other six vehicles by a 6-1 vote, with Jones in opposition.
Griffith Ford San Marcos will provide a half-ton mid size truck with an extended cab at $14,387.48, a half-ton full size truck with an extended cab and a long bed at $21,372.67, a half-ton full size truck with an extended cab and a short bed at $19,157.81, and a hybrid utility vehicle at $27,838.52.
Planet Ford in Caldwell County will provide a half-ton full size truck with an extended cab and short bed at $19,979, and a three-fourth ton full size truck with an extended cab and long bed at $27,890.Email | Print
Thanks again Ryan! Let’s keep the pressure up and wisely deploy our limited assets. The whole hybrid thing is a farce anyway. What is the ROI on the extra $12k the city would have spent? How much gas would you have to save to make up for that? And who knows what the resale value of that vehicle would be compared to a conventional truck. We can’t afford to be on the “bleeding edge” of technology adopters – let Austin be the battering ram and we’ll follow through if and when the science is proved up.
A wonderful catch by Mr. Thomason. Well done.
It’s nice to see that Mr. Jones has about faced and let the “tea party notion” of fiscal responsibility affect the budgeting process.
Is this “one small step….”
or a “drop in a bucket” ???
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This might be a more logical step in saving money upfront and maybe even in the long term, but I’m surprised the Fire chief didn’t come up with any numbers about how much money this hybrid would save in gas over the expected life of the vehicle, that would have been an interesting number to look at when making the decision as well. I also believe that the city and the University co-own a propane fueling station at the back of bobcat stadium. I’m not sure that there are any half-ton pick-up propane vehicles out now but it would have been nice to look at considering that propane is less harmful to the environment and it is usually cheaper than gasoline.
OK, I can see the need for the 1/2 ton PU; but not as the Chief’s vehicle. How about a Yaris, 40 mpg
Sounds like city employees need a real lesson on total impact and not just carbon footprints. Just because a vehicle uses less petroleum based products doesn’t mean it is less damaging to humans or the environment. Let’s really start a discussion about the harmful, long term, implications of these hybrid vehicles. And to boot – does it really cost less to operate when it’s time to replace, and destroy, those very expensive batteries? Questions that should be addressed and not accepted as factual just because Al Gore says so.