Friday, July 24–Cowger Irritated County Chose Non-County Business For Cars

SNOW HILL – An order for five police cars stirred some controversy among the County Commissioners Tuesday, with one saying the business ought to be kept within the county.

The Worcester County Sheriff’s Office requested five new police cars early this month, hoping to get the new vehicles through state of Maryland police car supplier Hertrich Fleet Services. The request was prompted by an offer to sell 2010 Crown Victoria Police Interceptors at the 2009 price. To get that price, the county must place an order by the end of July.

At $22,927 each, the five vehicles total $114,635, money that is already set aside for the purchase. Going through Hertrich Fleet Services of Delaware required the county to waive the bid process normally required on large purchases.

Commissioner Bobby Cowger opposed the purchase. The county has five car dealerships, he said, and they are on the verge of going out of business.  One car dealer he spoke to pays $50,000 in county taxes every year, according to Cowger.

“Sometimes government seems oblivious,” Cowger said. “If we don’t support private industry, there’s not going to be anybody paying taxes.”

The county is only saving $2,000 to $3,000 per car by going through Hertrich and abiding by the Ford deadline, Cowger said.

“Worcester County is a business too. It’s a business that spends the taxpayers’ money,” said Commissioner Judy Boggs, who added the priority needs to be on saving money.

“I’m totally opposed at this time to sending anything out for state bid and not looking at local dealers,” Cowger said.

Hertrich owns local Ford dealer Carlton Massey, Inc. of Pocomoke, Commissioner Virgil Shockley pointed out.

Any dealership can sell a police interceptor vehicle by another maker, said Public Works Director John Tustin.

If the commissioners gave local dealers the chance to bid, they would only have seven days before the county had to act on the order deadline, Shockley said.

The commissioners’ next meeting is not for two weeks.

 “Why does it have to be a Crown Vic?” Cowger asked.

The Virginia State Police use Chevrolet Impalas, according to Cowger.

The commissioners voted 5-2 to order the five 2010 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors.

Cowger and Commissioner Bud Church voted against the motion.

 “Bobby’s got a good point,” Commissioner Jim Purnell said after the vote, adding that the next time the county goes to buy vehicles the business should be kept within Worcester County.

That might have been possible if the request for new police vehicles had been made earlier, Boggs said.

The sheriff made the request on July 6, the first business day after he was notified of the offer of the Ford Crown Vics at the 2009 price, Tustin said.

In an e-mail after the meeting, Cowger called the decision “a slap in the face” to local business.

“This showed the car dealers and any other private businesses that those five commissioners have no feeling or support for their tax payers,” Cowger wrote. “It also shows that the department heads care nothing about the private business. This has proven my argument over the last six months to a year that government (county included) is oblivious to the economic times we are in.”