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Over 350K spent on city trucks for Parks and Rec; Money went to dealership 300 miles away

Posted at 6:20 PM, Nov 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-08 23:51:05-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — It was part of a regular Corpus Christi city council meeting that was approved unanimously and without discussion — the motion to authorize the purchase of 10 replacement vehicles for the city’s Park’s and Recreation Department.

The grand total was $355,415.00 and these vehicles would be purchased from Silsbee Ford — a dealership more than four hours away from the Coastal Bend.

Although the city had posted a memo detailing the 10 vehicles from the department that were being phased out — their ages ranging from seven to 18 years — details of the new vehicles being purchased were limited.

After reaching out to the city’s Contracts and Procurement Department, KRIS 6 News learned that the ten new vehicles were all 2021 models of Ford pickup trucks. We were provided more information along with documentation of the customization each truck received.

Contracts and Procurement Director Kim Baker explained that this set of purchases went through a Silsbee dealership because they went through a purchasing cooperative to get the city the best deal.

“In this case, we use GoodBuy, which is the Regional Service Center, number two here in Corpus Christi,” Baker said. “They have procured these trucks… Silsbee Ford was the winner. So we are allowed to use their buying power and go through our interlocal with them to buy off of their contract… And we are allowed to use that bid to make our purchases if we find that those prices are fair and reasonable for the city.”

Baker said, in this case, the prices were fair and reasonable, so the city’s fleet department continued with GoodBuy to purchase the ten trucks.

District 4 city councilor Greg Smith voted to approve the motion along with everyone else in September. He said the city has made many similar purchases in the past, but changing that could be for the better.

“We’re buying pickup trucks all the time and I’ve asked the very same questions before,” Smith said. “Can we do better, and actually reach out to dealership before? Because I would like to see us buying local if we can get it for the same or a better price.”

However, since the city went through GoodBuy, it’s uncertain whether or not any local dealerships are a part of the cooperative.

KRIS 6 News also reached out to the owners of Sames Ford and AutoNation to see if they would have been able to fulfill the city’s request, and at what estimated price — we have not heard back.

In addition to going through a cooperative, the city’s other option for acquiring vehicles is to put out Request For Proposals, although Baker said the city can only do so much from their end.

“As a public entity, unfortunately we don’t have that ability like a private citizen to just go out and wheel and deal, we have to do it all very fairly, very openly, very transparently, so that the public understands that they have a fair shot in pursuing the work,” Baker said.

“We can do everything we can to coax them to the table, so that they can participate, but we can’t just say, ‘Hey I just want to do business with a local vendor so I’m just going to give it to a local vendor.’ We don’t, by law, have that ability.”

District 2 City Councilor Ben Molina echoed that it lies in the hands of businesses to take part in these processes.

“Of course, we would like to shop local as much as we can, as often as we can, but at the same time we do need to be good stewards of the taxpayers money, and so we’re always gonna look for the best value for the tax dollars.”

In contrast to this purchase, Baker said the city has largely supported city businesses this past year.

“I don’t wanna leave you with the impression that local vendors don’t get business with us, they do all the time, they may not have all these 10 trucks for Parks and Rec., but we’ve placed $15 million of vehicles and equipment with local vendors,” Baker said.

“And, we should also mention that even though they may not be the ones that sold us the equipment, they’re certainly going to service the equipment, so if one of our Ford trucks need servicing, it’s going to one of our local dealers to be serviced — so even if they don’t get the sale, they’re going to still get the service because servicing is going to have to be done locally because that’s where our trucks are.”

Baker said she already has a procurement plan for the vehicles they plan to purchase this fiscal year.

“We know for sure that we’re going to put our light duty vehicles out for regular bid, so that will mean we’ll be opening up competition to everyone rather than going through a cooperative,” she said.

“(We) were brainstorming today about maybe even doing a mass procurement for all of these vehicles, if we can make that work, we may do that. But we’re going to study and make sure that if we do that, the price we’re going to get is going to be better than what we can get from one of these cooperatives with their buying power, because — at the end of the day we got to get the best price for the city of Corpus Christi and for our taxpayers, so that’s our ultimate goal.”

Those interested in working with the city can view bids on their supplier portal.