HIGH POINT — The Guilford County Sheriff’s Office got two of the cars it needs over the weekend after the Guilford County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously last week to amend its bidding procedures on an emergency basis.
County Manager Michael Halford told the board the sheriff’s office needed new vehicles immediately but was having trouble finding any because of supply chain issues and lack of availability.
An ongoing global shortage of microchips — key components in modern vehicles — has slowed production of new vehicles, so demand is outpacing supply.
By amending a clause in the county’s competitive bidding code, the board agreed to buy the vehicles without its normal bidding process.
“If we were to bid these vehicles now, it’s going to take us probably several months in order to get those,” Halford said. “There are some available on lots across the country that we’ve identified. This exemption will allow us to get the sheriff five vehicles and then we’ll work to try to identify and bid for other vehicles.”
The sheriff’s office found two vehicles on one dealership’s lot and three others in production in Pennsylvania, Capt. Aldous Heron said. That dealership looked up North Carolina bidding numbers and took about $8,000 off the price to match the cost the county would normally pay, Heron said.
“We actually need about 60 cars,” Heron said. “The first five we’re going to try to get without the bidding process. The other ones, since it’s going to be such a long time to get them, we’re going to put those others out to bid.”
The current county budget calls for replacing 35 law enforcement vehicles. Emergency services just have an immediate need now, Halford said. The others will be bid.
Sheriff Danny Rogers told the board its vehicle budget was taken last year and in 2019.
“So now we’re two years behind,” Rogers said. “We actually need 60, but 35 would give us what we need to make sure that we continue to serve Guilford County citizens the way that we need to.”
Rogers said the vehicles that need to be replaced all have high mileage.
The county can’t waive state statutes that require a seven-day bidding process, Halford said. The sheriff’s office can continue to identify vehicles that are available, and Halford can present those to the board every two weeks to authorize purchase, he said. If the county can get a bid out seven days later, it can comply with the state regulations.
“Some of this challenge we’re not going to be able to fix, and that’s just based on where the world is right now. But what we can fix tonight is getting five and then moving on for the other ones,” he said.
Chairman Skip Alston said the board had already approved the budget for buying more vehicles.
“So it’s not a matter of us allocating the funds,” Alston said. “As quick as you can find them, we can buy them through the state statutory process — every two days, every three days. The manager has some authority, too. We can release the funds.”
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