London BPU’s luxury SUV purchase questioned

A city resident is questioning why the London Board of Public Utilities purchased a luxury SUV to use as a service vehicle.

Doug Pyles brought his concerns to London City Council during Thursday’s regular meeting. The BPU approved the purchase of a Lincoln Navigator during its meeting last week.

Pyles said the BPU has acted “amuck again,” referring his unhappiness with the board’s prior decision to raise water rates.

“What’s wrong with a basic F-150 pick-up truck?” Pyles asked. He questioned the need for heated leather seats, and other luxury perks.

Patrick Closser, council president, said Pyles was not the first to bring up the concern to him. He asked BPU member Herb Eades, sitting in the audience, to address the issue.

The SUV was purchased from Buckeye Ford to replace a 15-year-old, rusting pick-up truck, Eades said. He said the board was initially looking to purchase a four-door pick-up truck for the water plant, but discovered the four-door SUV could be attained at a much lower price.

Additionally, the SUV allows equipment stored in the back to remain out of weather, he noted.

Eades, who at the meeting could not recall the vehicle’s purchase price, said the board was aware how the purchase could be poorly perceived.

“We all talked about perception, and said it’s not really a good thing, but it was a good price,” he said. “They (plant superintendent Marty Colwell and others) couldn’t find a truck used that came close to the price they got it for.”

Council member Steve Scaggs said perception is important.

“It kind of concerns me that they realized it would be a perception problem, but still went ahead and did it,” Scaggs said. “Maybe we just don’t care what the people think.”

“It wasn’t my decision,” Eades answered.

“You’re part of the BPU, right?” Scaggs responded.

When reached Friday, BPU chairman Bill Blazer said the Lincoln was purchased for about $12,000 and has 100,000 miles on it. Like Eades, Blazer emphasized the purchase was cost-effective.

“It was a really good deal, and we were fortunate to get it,” he said. “We knew if it has a Ford or a Chevy on it, no one would have thought twice.”

The trucks the group was looking at were being priced in the $18,000 to $20,000 range, Blazer said, adding that the group made a point to buy locally.

Also on Thursday, council:

• Discussed whether the city should mow a lot on North Madison Road, which is currently privately-owned but will soon be city-owned. The city had planned to not mow the lot, Hume said.

Closser said neighbors are upset about the long grass, and are questioning why the city sent notifications from 2004 to 2009 about the long grass to the private owners, but will not mow it.

“Why would we enforce the citizen to mow it, and we’re not going to mow it,” Closser said. “Just because we can?”

Hume said city workers could mow the lot, but it would be an additional burden.

• Agreed to cancel its July 2 meeting, due to several members being on holiday vacations.

• Postponed voting on an ordinance to provide a bonus and salary raise for department heads, citing the need to finalize which individuals will receive the increases. A vote is expected at the June 18 meeting.

• Approved an additional $5,000 appropriation for a separate electric meter to be installed at London Primary School in anticipation of the complex’s sale to Brightway Institute.

Andrea McKinney can be reached at 740-852-1616, ext. 1619 or via Twitter @AndeeWrites.