Port Allen, LA (NBC33) — A new SUV for the Port Allen Fire Department would cost $30,000 dollars. Some city leaders think the mayor's refusal to pay for it will cost the city a lot more.
Mayor Demetric "Deedy" Slaughter declined to sign a check to pay for the vehicle three weeks ago when it arrived at a dealership in Grosse Tete.
"I had no idea that the contract was there until it was placed on my desk," she said.
At Wednesday's city council meeting, she said the lack of information was the reason she chose not to allow the fire department to receive the SUV.
"When I came in (after December's election), there was no transition made to give me contracts that were outstanding, for me to know that there were contracts outstanding," she stated, "so this hit me at the blind side."
Slaughter places some of the blame on fire chief Rick Boudreaux, and some on former mayor Roger Bergeron. She claimed to have asked for briefings after winning the office, but he never responded to her requests.
"One day transition, that's all I received," she said.
Boudreaux told the council he first tried to order a new SUV last August, before finalizing a contract in November with help from City Hall.
"At that point, the truck was on order," he said, explaining why he had no conversations with Slaughter about it. "I mean, it was on auto-pilot then, so I didn't put another thought into it."
When Slaughter got the check to sign in March, she refused. She stated Wednesday that Port Allen has the money to afford the SUV, but she chose to put some of that money into fixing a fire truck, instead.
"This is something that is needed," she said, "so instead of getting the truck, we're going to go ahead and take this $14,000 to apply it to this Engine 36, because it needed to be repaired."
Boudreaux claimed that the dealership stood to make only a few dollars in profit if the deal had gone as planned.
"And they have to pay interest on these things from the day they hit the lot," he added. "They pay interest daily. So it's been sitting there for 20 days now, and at the end of the month, he had to pay the interest on it, so he's upside down on it."
After this failed purchase, some members of the city council worry that Port Allen will lose its ability to buy equipment at a discount using state purchase orders.
"Which is extremely valuable to a municipality the size of Port Allen," said Hugh Riviere. "We save thousands of dollars a year buying computers, office furniture, things of that nature."
"If somebody negates your contract and does not honor it, are you willing to enter into another contract with 'em?" Garry Hubble asked the audience. "Are you? Are you? No, you're not!"
Slaughter maintained that the city would not likely lose its purchasing power because of this one contract, and that she may revisit the contract in the future.
"If a truck is needed, it's needed," she said. "But just do the thing the right way."
Continuing a recent trend, members of the council and audience shouted at each other during Wednesday's meeting when time ran out to discuss the SUV. Riviere tried to get more time to take public comment, but was denied.
"That was frustrating," he said. "It was my committee. My wish would've been to extend the time by five minutes. We had a former mayor (Bergeron) who wanted to speak, we had a concerned citizen, Mr. Wendell Hightower, I think his name is, he wanted to address the issue. That was my wish, but it didn't happen."
Slaughter ended her comments with a plea for trust.
"I love this city," she said. "I love the people. Again, all I'm asking the people to do is to give me the chance, the opportunity to do what the people have elected me to do."