The Cloquet City Council has approved the purchase of three police vehicles for less than budgeted.
The councilors voted to approve the purchase Tuesday, Oct. 15, but earlier in the summer, then-Acting Chief Carey Ferrell twice requested the purchase. The council tabled the action May 21 and June 4 despite $95,000 in the city's approved 2019 budget for the purchases.
Current interim Chief Derek Randall requested the council purchase two new 2020 Dodge Chargers for $51,169 — or $1,452 more per vehicle than the bid presented by Ferrell over the summer.
There were also an estimated $33,000 needed for the purchase and installation of necessary squad car equipment, but Randall was able to reduce the cost to $24,000 for the two new vehicles by shuffling or reusing equipment from other squad cars. For example, the CPD will use the radar from the school resource officer’s vehicle because that officer isn't on daily patrol.
The council also approved $13,000 to purchase a currently leased squad car.
The CPD will spend about $7,000 less than the city originally budgeted.
According to the requests submitted by Ferrell and Randall, the department typically purchases two new vehicles per year. However, in 2015, none were purchased and just one vehicle was leased for three years in 2016 — meaning the department’s fleet, particularly its undercover fleet, is aging.
The savings is good news for the department after 2018, when the CPD outspent its projected budget by more than $200,000.
Over half of the $211,000 difference between the projected and actual budgets is related to overtime expenses due to a number of patrol officers out for various reasons throughout the year.
Personnel costs are expected to be high for the CPD in 2019, too. Officer Scott Beckman left the force in December 2018 after allegations of misconduct, but a separation agreement with the city kept him paid through September. Office Scott Holman was dismissed from the force June 4 after he was the subject of misconduct allegations.
Former Chief Jeff Palmer was on paid voluntary leave from April until his resignation Aug. 8. Ferrell, however, began his own leave of absence in September and at least one other officer has taken an extended leave in 2019.