The Madison City Commission split a vote concerning the purchase of a new 1-ton pickup for the Madison Utilities Department, but the vehicle purchase was approved with a 3-2 vote on Monday.

The city commissioners were given a purchase request from the utilities department for a 2020 Ram 3500 pickup to use as an equipment vehicle. Prostrollo Auto Mall had provided a quote of $31,305 for the four-wheel-drive vehicle. An additional $18,420 was quoted as the cost for purchasing the pickup's utility box.

In total, the cost for the pickup amounted to $49,725.

Brad Lawrence, municipal utilities director, said his department had shifted some funds related to equipment purchases to buy the pickup. According to Lawrence, the city's electricians do not need to answer some repair and maintenance calls using the department's bucket trucks because many of the city's transformers and switches are set at ground level. In addition, many electric utility lines in Madison are currently underground.

Lawrence said it was cheaper to use an equipped pickup rather than a bucket truck. He quoted the cost for using a bucket truck at $200 per hour.

According to Lawrence, earlier this year, the city's utility meter reader needed a different vehicle because his current vehicle was worn out. Lawrence said the utilities department provided the meter reader with its 2012-model office vehicle and purchased a new office vehicle. That transaction and other equipment-related decisions had provided about $52,000 within the department's budget.

After the commissioners heard the proposal, Commissioner Bob Thill made a motion to deny the vehicle purchase, saying the utilities department had "...way too many new pickups." Thill added that he wanted Lawrence to perform an inventory of the department's vehicles.

Thill's motion to deny the vehicle purchase died for lack of a second.

Commissioner Jerae Wire asked Lawrence about the vehicle that the new pickup would replace in the utilities department. Lawrence replied that the department wanted to replace a 2003 1/2-ton pickup.

Lawrence told the commissioners that the utilities department did possess an equipment-replacement schedule. As examples, the utilities department did replace vehicles three years ago and one year ago, plus the vehicle swap earlier this year for the utility meter reader.

After a motion was made and seconded about the vehicle purchase, the commissioners listened to discussion about the vehicle purchase. Pat Mullen of Madison proposed instead of a vehicle purchase that the city transfer the money to the police department.

Commissioner Mike Waldner pointed out that the city's separate departments have their own budgets within the overall municipal budget. In addition, the departments can make their own requests for spending funds.

Thill argued that the proposed pickup truck purchase was "...more of a want than a need." He also doubted the $200 per hour expense of operating a bucket truck but offered no contradictory expense numbers.

Jim Casanova of Madison said that the city didn't "...need a pickup every year." Casanova proposed that the city instead purchase a mower capable of cutting grass growing into the creekbeds within city limits. Casanova has argued that Madison needs to mow its creekbeds in order to reduce the potential for flooding problems.

During the vote for the utilities department pickup purchase, Commissioners Wire, Waldner and Adam Shaw approved the purchase, and Commissioner Thill and Mayor Marshall Dennert voted no.