Bay Council okays fire truck purchase
By Cassandra Favre
Dec 20, 2013, 19:13
The Bay St. Louis City Council on Tuesday approved measures to move forward with the purchase of a controversial aerial ladder truck for the city fire department.
The controversy arose at the council's Dec. 3 meeting when Ward Six Councilman Lonnie Falgout questioned administration officials about the truck.
Falgout asked at that meeting if the fire truck had already been purchased without council approval and whether the administration was following state contract purchasing guidelines.
Falgout said at the time he was concerned about the lack of a state contract number on the city's purchase orders issued to Ferrara, the company building the truck.
"The purchase orders issued are not a check," Bay St. Louis Fire Chief Pam SanFillippo said at that meeting. "We issue and cancel them all the time."
SanFillippo said that the administration and her department were following state contract laws "and so do the vendors. We are waiting on a state contract number. They are re-negotiating numbers and that is why it is taking so long."
"There's been nothing done inappropriately, " Mayor Les Fillingame said Tuesday. "The purchase orders are merely an intent to purchase. When a budget is formulated and adopted, it is the responsibility of the administration to carry forward in implementing the budget, we put out purchase orders every day and don't solicit your input on every one. Our obligation is to only commit ourselves and obligate the city within the parameters of what you all have budgeted."
Fillingame revealed Tuesday that someone had filed a complaint with the Mississippi State Auditor's Office about the matter.
City attorney Donald Rafferty said he had met with state auditor's investigator Chris Lott.
"My understanding is that there is no violation," Rafferty said. "There could be a potential violation if the city has incurred any expense without approval from the council. The investigation is being done is on the pretext that the city has already purchased the truck, which is not the case, but as of right now, since the city hasn't incurred any expense, we're not in violation of any law."
Ward Five Councilman Joey Boudin asked Rafferty if a written opinion from the state auditor's office had been issued.
"We don't have one," Rafferty said. "The state auditor is not going to issue an opinion on it. What they did do was send investigator Chris Lott down, who's investigated.
"I did speak with him. The issue that comes up is that if you vote it down and then we had incurred an expense, then there may be a violation. The AG's office (acted) the same way, since this is an issue pending they will not give us an opinion on that."
Rafferty also said that he recommended to administration that the term "purchase order" be changed to "proposal" or "proposed purchase order."
"In the normal merchants business," Rafferty said, "people think in a commercial transaction when you put out a purchase order, you're contracting and it's done. That's where we've got a hiccup, no two ways about it."
Falgout made a motion to authorize the SanFillippo to buy Ferrara truck HD-77, within state contract purchasing guidelines.
The motion passed five to two.
Boudin abstained and Ward Three Councilman Jeffrey Reed voted no.
"I abstained because I didn't want to vote yes or no," Boudin said on Friday. "We need this truck, so I didn't want to vote no, but there's still an ongoing investigation and I want to have a written report saying this is all being done right."
"It was never a matter of not wanting the truck or anything against the fire department," Falgout said. "I wanted to make sure we were following procedures."
"I'm glad it's all resolved," SanFillippo said on Wednesday. "Now we can continue moving forward with the purchase of our fire truck.
"We've done everything right and based on conversations with the investigator from the state auditor's office, he thinks so, too."
Brett Kittredge, communications director for the Mississippi State Auditor's office, said on Thursday that "the auditor's office cannot comment on any specific questions or pending investigations."
For updates on the city's new fire truck, visit the Facebook page at Bay Saint Louis Fire Department.
In other action Tuesday:
• Councilmen approved a motion to allow fireworks from Dec. 21 to Jan. 4 at midnight.
• Councilmen approved a request to surplus the metal structure and storage facility at the old city yard and to advertise for sealed bids for scrap metal and to open sealed bids in a public meeting.
• Council approved utilizing the remaining $65,000 in the line of credit to pay the docket in the amount of $65,875.05.