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Erlanger Police Chief to Retire; Council Debates Bid for New Ambulance

The Erlanger city council went into executive session during its meeting last Tuesday and when it reemerged, they voted unanimously to name Lt. Col. Kyle Rader as the city's new police chief.

Current Chief Todd Brendel told council he would retire at the end of the year, and is using the off-time he has accumulated until then, and is out of service.

Rader formally takes over on January 1.

In other business, Councilman Tyson Hermes wanted to postpone any action on the bid for a new ambulance.

"I am asking for a little bit of time," said Hermes, indicating that he and Councilman Don Niceley would like to look into why there was only one bid, and why that bid was over the amount the city had budgeted for.

He told council there are many other ambulance companies out there, and he wanted time to look more closely into the bid documents to see if there was any specifications in those documents that would make the other companies decline to submit a bid. 

Hermes also suggested that $50,000 of repairs to the current third string ambulance might be of more value to the city than buying a new vehicle.

Other council members were upset with his suggestions.

Councilwoman Patty Suedkamp said she had every confidence that the request for bid papers were pristine, knowing that Fire Chief Todd Whitaker had prepared the papers as he had for the other two ambulances he had recommended buying in his six years as chief. She said the longer they wait, the more expensive it will get.

Whitaker said the current spare ambulance is a 2010, and is on its second engine. 

He explained that the first engine was a 6.4-liter engine which was a problem for the company, and the second was a 5.7-liter engine. 

Because of the repairs that are required for the ambulance, it will be extremely expensive for the repairs, the chief said. He told council that if they didn't buy the ambulance they would lose their $4,200 rebate, and the chassis price would increase.

Whitaker said he used to sell firetrucks, and he knows the work that goes into the bid request, and he followed the instructions to the letter, which he accomplished with due diligence. When the bid came in at $237,000 instead of the $225,000 the city had budgeted for, Whitaker took the remaining $12,000 out of the line item numbers of the budget, showing that he could make it work.

Councilwoman Kathy Cahill also offered her opinion as a former EMT, saying people need to walk a mile in the EMTs' shoes, and concluded that if they need that ambulance,  in the name of safety they should have it. Braun was the only company to bid on the ambulance, and Erlanger's other two main ambulances are from Braun.

Hermes and Niceley protested that they didn't want to compromise safety, but they wanted more time to consider the bid, the bid papers, and investigate why they didn't receive more bids.

City Attorney Jack Gatlin was not sure what the procedure was for whether the vote for the ambulance could proceed or the committee's request for more time should be heeded. He said he wasn't sure of the power of the committee, because the city had never codified the authority or power of it. He told council his understanding was that the ambulance was already budgeted and that was a huge argument for the vote going forward.

"Time is money," said Councilman Kevin Burke, addressing Hermes. He said he thought the city could lose money on the deal if they delay the decision.

Hermes said he, as a businessman, writes bids every day, and he felt they could wait and see if it was worth rebidding.

Burke came out strong, stating that Hermes didn't know it would be cheaper if they wait.

Councilman Tom Cahill asked a few questions, such as how many runs the ambulance makes a year, which is approximately 3,500, up from last year, and how often is the third ambulance out there, which was estimated at about 5 to 6 days a month, and what is the current mileage on the third ambulance, which is approximately 76,000.

A vote was called to table the bid until November 19 when a special meeting could be held after discussion, and while Niceley, Hermes, and Councilman Gary Meyer voted yes, Burke, both Cahills, Don and Renee Skidmore, Rebecca Reckers, and Patty Suedkamp voted no, that they wanted to vote on the bid at the current meeting. 

A decision on the bid has to be made by November 27. 

But even after the decisive vote, there was still confusion as to how to proceed. 

Gatlin, the city attorney, apologized for being unsure and not knowing what rules were dominant in this case. Hermes said he hadn't seen the bid, and he didn't think City Administrator Matt Kremer had seen it, or Gatlin or Mayor Jessica Fette. 

Fire Chief Whitaker said he distributed the bid result to council and administration two weeks ago.

Gatlin ultimately agreed that it would not be detrimental to wait until the 19th, so he decided to let Hermes and Niceley look into it, so council can discuss it at the committee meeting on that date.

That will be followed by a special council meeting to accept the bid or reject it.

Five bids were received for the Silverlake  Avenue phase-two concrete project. Public Works Director Peter Glenn recommended accepting the low bid of $318,261 from JPS Construction, and council agreed.

The project of updating the sidewalks on Commonwealth from Dixie Highway to Baker street was approved by the Ohio Kentucky Indiana Regional Council of Governments (OKI), with a cost of $923,611, which is the amount awarded to the city for the project by OKI. The design phase should be approved in 2022, utilities in 2023, and the construction phase in 2024.

Another resolution specified that the mayor enter into an agreement with Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to accept a grant for $48,000 in reimbursable Surface transportation program for Northern Kentucky funds to beautify the Dolwick Connector Project, which is the electrical lot behind Super Bowl.

Jeffrey Jansen and Clayton Dennison were sworn in as new Police officers while their families looked on. Both have been through the academy but are still in training in the city.

Members of Boy Scout troop 708 from River Ridge Elementary had come to the city building before the meeting for a tour and then stayed for the meeting. They presented Chief Whitaker with a special patch for his help with the troop.

Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor

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