City buys Tahoes for department heads

Published 11:01 pm Friday, March 9, 2012

The city spent more than $89,000 last fall buying sport utility vehicles for department heads and upper-level administrators.

Three city personnel — Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts, Police Chief Thomas Bennett and Director of Public Utilities Al Moor — received SUVs between September and December last year.

Total cost — $89,631.

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In addition, Media and Community Relations Director Debbie George — now the interim chief of staff — received a 2010 Ford Explorer in September 2010 at a cost of nearly $30,000.

Responding to questions about the purchases, George said most of the purchases were replacements of passenger vehicles for employees that already had assigned fleet vehicles.

“The city invested in these vehicles as part of our emergency planning and operations,” George said. “All of the employees you inquired about, in addition to being on call 24/7, play critical roles during times of emergencies.”

George said the department heads and other top-level employees often are required to travel to the Emergency Operations Center during dangerous conditions such as hurricanes, ice storms and flooding incidents.

The employees also are required to respond to incidents around the city in all sorts of conditions, she added. Sometimes, hazards such as flooding, high winds and electrical wires on the road make standard-size vehicles unsafe, she said.

City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn also characterized the purchases as crucial to emergency preparedness during Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

“These are individuals that are part of the 24/7 team,” she said. “We are moving into the tornado season in Virginia.”

George said other department heads, such as the fire chief and director of Public Works, also have fleet SUVs to aid in emergency response.

Moor’s vehicle, a 2012 Ford Escape, cost $18,282 and was purchased via state contract from Crossroads of Virginia, a Ford dealer in Prince George.

Both Bennett and Roberts received 2012 Chevrolet Tahoes — for $33,668 and $37,681, respectively — that were purchased from Hall Automotive in Virginia Beach.