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Steve Schmitt pictured on Monday, October 17, 2011. (RICK CHASE / Courier Staff Photographer)

WATERLOO, Iowa --- City Council members agreed to buy police cars from a Waukee car dealer and put debate over local preference in the back seat.

Council members voted 6-0 Monday without discussion to buy six new Ford Police Interceptors from Stivers Ford. The Des Moines-area dealership submitted the lowest bid on the cars at $142,926, which was $513 below the other bid from Bill Colwell Ford in Hudson.

Councilman Harold Getty was absent.

While Councilman Steve Schmitt last week raised questions about whether the city should favor the Hudson dealership --- the difference was just 0.3 percent --- he chose not to raise the question during the meeting.

Mayor Buck Clark said he was going to provide Schmitt with information about the city's policy, which he called vague.

"It doesn't define what's local," Schmitt said. "It doesn't define the difference: What's the dollar amount?"

Schmitt noted other cities have local-preference policies. He said local vendors step up with support for community events and fundraisers and should get reasonable preference when vying for a city contract.

"These are local businesses that we go to to donate," he said. "We don't go to Stivers Ford."

City Council members over the years have debated whether to offer a specified preference for local bids. But talks often get hung up over what constitutes a "local" business.

The new police vehicles are being funded with general obligation bonds repaid with interest from property tax dollars. They replace vehicles that have become worn out or unsafe.

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