Gardiner Town Board member Carol Richman can’t understand why the Town Board couldn’t wait to purchase a more environmentally-friendly vehicle for the building department rather than approving the purchase of a gas-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee at its Aug. 9 meeting.
The Town Board voted 4-1 to buy the 2015 vehicle for $20,000 from a private citizen with Richman casting the lone dissenting vote. The vehicle, which had just one owner and had logged 69,000 miles, could be used by town employees in other departments, too.
Supervisor Marybeth Majestic advocated for the purchase of the vehicle, calling it a “wise investment” for the town and noting that the vehicle could come out of American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds.
During the meeting, Majestic said chronic staffing issues in the town building department could be solved by adding a new vehicle for the department.
“It’s come to my attention that to kind of sweeten the pot for the deal for somebody to work for the town it would be beneficial if they didn’t have to use their own vehicles,” she said. “Using their own vehicle (also) opens us (the town) up for liability.”
Majestic said Town Highway Superintendent Brian Sticia recommended the vehicle and said it was in good condition.
“This is the second one,” Majestic said. “The first one got vetoed on because it was a big truck that we really did not need.”
Majestic said the new town vehicle could use gas from the town highway department’s supply, thus eliminating taxes for gas purchased at local pumps.
Richman thought a better option would be to purchase a hybrid vehicle. During the meeting, she suggested it would send a wrong message to purchase a gas-powered vehicle after the town had become a Climate Smart Community.
“We’re in a town where we have Climate Smart that we’re advocating for,” she said. “We should set a standard here.”
Richman said the day after the board meeting that she wished she had been more forceful in her opposition to the vehicle purchase.
“I focused on the issue of purchasing a gas-guzzling large truck which is unnecessary for the job,” Richman said. “Perhaps I did not present it with enough force. I could see I was the sole opponent of this purchase, thus I backed off.”
Richman also opposed the board’s decision to waive the town’s procurement policy so they could buy the vehicle without delay.
According to Chapter 48 of the Town of Gardiner’s Procurement Policy, three written quotes are required for purchase contracts from $4,000 to $20,000.
“It’s even more reprehensible to suspend our procurement policy to not do comparison shopping to quickly purchase a non-hybrid, non-electric vehicle,” Richman said.
Richman was not convinced that purchasing a new vehicle would be an incentive for applicants to apply for positions in the building department. She maintained that not much of an effort had been made by the town to lure prospective candidates to the overworked office.
“I do not see that the town has made a concerted effort to advertise hiring a new part-time building inspector, so there was no immediate need to buy this vehicle,” she said.
Board members Laura Walls, Franco Carucci and Warren Wiegand joined Majestic in voting to waive the procurement policy and to buy the vehicle for the building department.
“I’m very much in favor of getting a vehicle,” Walls said. “I think it’s a positive step forward for making this job more attractive. If it doesn’t work out, we can always sell it.”
In other news, the board unanimously approved a mass gathering permit for Gardiner Day. It will be held October 1 at George Majestic Memorial Park.
“I’m quite happy they’re attempting to get this back up and running this year,” Majestic said. “It will all take place down at the park. The last couple years we’ve (the event) been through town and did what we could with COVID. It looks like they’re getting it back to the way it used to be.”