St. Louis City Council approved a plan Tuesday that may result in the purchase of two police vehicles in October for less than the city budgeted for one police vehicle.
This year’s budget provides $40,000 for the purchase of one Dodge Charger police car. But a grant from USDA Rural Development, a federal agency, could pay 75 percent of the purchase price of two SUV police vehicles, leaving St. Louis with a $23,750 obligation.
The potential windfall came as a surprise to St. Louis Finance Director Bobbie Marr.
She called her contact at USDA Rural Development on Monday to start the process for getting one new police vehicle in the next fiscal year or two and learned then that the agency had a grant available that would pay 75 percent of the cost of two police vehicles.
Marr’s contact “let me know that if we hurried and got our pre-application in that they were at a point in their process that they have excess funds this year and were going to roll them back up the chain. So if we got in quickly we may have funds obligated to us by the end of September.”
Working with Police Chief Richard J. Ramereiz Jr., Marr got her ducks in a row so that the proposal could be pitched to city council Tuesday night. Council voted 4-0 (Jerry Church being absent) to authorize City Manager Kurt Giles to sign the grant application and submit it.
“The grant is not guaranteed,” Marr said via email. “I feel like we have a very good chance at getting at least one vehicle partially funded this round, but am obviously hoping for both. This is just step one in the process. It took me most of Monday afternoon and yesterday to get the pre-application paperwork filled out and supporting information gathered. Then we will have to fill out another application and other documents in the next phase.”
If all goes well, two vehicles could be purchased in October.
The vehicles that Chief Ramereiz is looking at are a 2017 and a 2018 Ford Interceptor Utility (based on the Explorer platform) that Navarre Ford has.
“If we are lucky enough to receive (the grant), we will have our police fleet back into an efficient rotation and can start the process again to try and get funding for the next vehicle,” Marr said.
The city’s history with USDA Rural Development includes getting $16,000 from the agency when it bought a 2014 Dodge Charger that is currently in the fleet.
“A couple of years ago I made a pitch to try and get plow vehicles through the program which made it by the preliminary application but was later shot down,” Marr said. “We were successful on a pre-application for a pole truck, but they only obligated $10,000 of the $235,000 we needed so we had to postpone that purchase as we just couldn’t justify our match at the time.”