Town false starts again in purchasing of police radios

FRONT ROYAL – Last week the Town Council seemed poised to approve the $545,000 purchase of a new Front Royal Police Department Motorola radio system, but that was not the case.

The Town Council voted 4-0 during a special meeting before its Monday work session to delay the purchase. Councilmen Jacob Meza and William Sealock were not present.

Councilman Christopher Morrison sought the delay, saying that he wanted more time to pursue payment options.

This is the second time the council did not follow through on a decision to purchase the radios after unanimously agreeing to do so.

The council was set to purchase the radios last week by loaning itself money from the general fund balance. Council members opted not to do so after finance director B.J. Wilson noted that the required three-month general fund reserve contingency balance would unexpectedly drop.

This results from a $1.2 million increase in the town’s contribution to the Other Post-Employment Benefits and an about  $300,000 increase in its contribution to the Virginia Retirement System. So the council decided to pursue loans, which at last bid would carry $113,205 interest over 10 years.

Wilson noted that it would take about a month to put the request back out for bid in an attempt to obtain cheaper rates. At Councilman Jacob Meza’s suggestion, the council unanimously agreed to purchase the radios from the general fund and repay itself when granted the loan. After that decision was made during a work session last week, a vote was set for Monday.

Vice Mayor Eugene Tewalt and Town Manager Joe Waltz both agreed that they thought a consensus was unanimously reached last week. Tewalt, however, said Morrison’s request for further consideration should be honored.

Councilmen have repeatedly said it is important to purchase the radio system soon so that it will be ready for installation when the Police Department moves into its new building near the year’s end.

Mayor Hollis Tharpe previously said it is “common sense” not to have the department install its old equipment in the building only to remove the system when the new radios arrive.

Butch Bryant, a Motorola representative, previously said the system would ideally be purchased by the end of September.

The council will continue discussing payment options during a Sept. 10 work session after its regular meeting.

Councilmen Jacob Meza and William Sealock were not present at Monday’s meeting.