North Charleston, anticipating Charleston County School Board approval of the city’s plan to hire police to guard elementary schools, plans to buy $544,447 worth of new police vehicles from a city car dealer.

The no-bid contract with Crews Chevrolet, approved Thursday by City Council, would pay for 20 new Tahoe sport utility vehicles specially equipped for police pursuit.

Some council members questioned the need for pursuit-ready SUVs, for officers who will be stationed at elementary schools, while others questioned circumventing bidding rules in order to buy local.

“They’re going to be in a school, not doing pursuits,” Councilman Ed Astle said.

Mayor Keith Summey said the Tahoes, at $27,222 each, are less expensive than the Caprice sedans also used by the city police, and will be handy when school officers need to transport people or gear for children’s activities.

For several council members, the larger question was about the propriety of the no-bid purchase.

Summey made clear that buying from a local business was a key motivation, though he also said it would take much longer to get the needed vehicles through the state’s buying service.

“They (the local businesses) are paying our business license fees, our property tax,” Summey said.

Only Councilman Todd Olds voted against the purchase during a Finance Committee meeting.

“I support local businesses,” Olds said, before voting against the purchase due to the no-bid nature of the deal.

“Apparently not hard enough,” Summey responded.

Olds a short time later joined the majority in a unanimous vote to approve the buy, during the regular City Council meeting. The city does not plan to order the vehicles until the Charleston County School Board decides Monday whether to OK the city’s plan to put police in the elementary schools.

Crews Chevrolet was a $1,000 donor to Summey’s last mayoral campaign. Summey said lots of businesses, including other car dealers, donated to his campaign, and the 2011 contribution had nothing to do with Thursday’s purchase agreement.

Council members Rhonda Jerome, Dorothy Williams and Dwight Stigler were absent the meeting.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.