The new units, with all costs included, will cost $30,254.40, for 32 units, totaling $968,140.
According to County Administrator Randy Dowling, one unit would cost $25,250.40, but that does not include other costs such as decals and equipment.
“You have to add decals, new video cameras, but all the existing equipment in the old cop cars are going to be transferred into the new ones,” said Dowling.
According to Dowling, $750,000 will come from the SPLOST funds, but because these funds will not be available for another 12 to 13 months, the $750,000 will be taken from the landfill fund. The remaining $218,140 will come from general reserve funds, explained Dowling.
Funds will be returned to the landfill after SPLOST dollars come in, said Dowling, but that is if the SPLOST dollars come in as predicted, he explained.
Prater Ford won because the business was the lowest bidder approved to supply the Sheriff’s Office.
According to Dowling, Ford has discontinued manufacturing the usual Crown Victoria Vehicles and is replacing them with the new Ford Taurus, but due to equipment size in the current Crown Victoria cruisers, purchasing all new equipment would be very expensive.
Gordon County Sheriff Mitch Ralston agrees that the discontinued Crown Victoria vehicles are what the Sheriff’s Office needs.
Patrol vehicles of the Sheriff’s Office have been Crown Victoria vehicles for over 20 years and the other cars that will soon replace the Crown Vic’s are untested, according to Ralston.
Purchasing the same brand of vehicles would provide familiarity for the deputies as well as a cost effective way to replace the equipment from the old cruisers to the new ones.
“We get an opportunity to get the last of the Crown Vic’s (they are tested); we know what we are getting,” said Ralston. “I have a deputy on staff that has agreed to take those (old) patrol cars, the ones with the equipment on it, take them apart and put them on the new cars, using inmate labor to help him, so that’s no cost to the county,” said Ralston.
The Sheriff’s Office anticipates giving the same number of old cruisers back to the county as they receive new ones, according to Dowling, and estimates all 32 vehicles will bring in between $30,000 to $35,000 at public auction,, and will be applied to the purchase price.
Dowling explained the current Crown Victoria cruisers were fairly old. Twenty new units were purchased in 2003 and again in 2008, 28 more were purchased, said Dowling.
The date for public auction has not been set, according to Dowling; the vehicles must first be approved as surplus by the board.
“When is the auction? We don’t know yet. We cannot sell them individually to the public. The board has to declare them surplus and go to public sale,” said Dowling. “We cannot do private sales to individuals.”
Ralston explained he would work to end the practice of purchasing whole “fleets” of cars at one time to prevent the cumbersome costs associated with purchasing large numbers of new units.
“What happens is when you get so many at one time, those 28 vehicles wire out at the same time,” said Ralston. “That’s why I want to get out of getting so many at one time because it puts a burden on the department but also on the taxpayers,” said Ralston.
Concern from the Floor
Concerns from the floor during the work session of the Gordon County Commissioners meeting were heard before the bid was approved.
“We are going to have to pull more than $200,000 out of general fund reserves to fund these patrol cars,” said Martin Vaughn, Purchasing Director for the Gordon County Finance Department.
“I know that he (Ralston) has a responsibility to patrol the streets and he can’t do it without the proper equipment, but you have a responsibility to the tax payers to not spend so much of their money. From the finance department we don’t think we should be taking money out of the general fund or any reserve fund,” he said.
In a later statement, Vaughn explained he did not oppose purchasing the vehicles, just where the funds came from to purchase them.
“I am not in opposition, I just believe that we need to examine carefully anytime we spend our reserves,” said Vaughn.
Prater Ford was able to find the discontinued cars and have them shipped within two weeks, so the timely opportunity to replace the older vehicles is an “opportunity that I don’t think we can pass up [budgetary wise],” said Gordon County Commissioner Alvin Long.
According to Ralston, the deputies will be able to replace equipment from old cruisers to new ones and turn out three to four cars a week.
Providing equipment exchange will save the county $180,000 with using inmate labor, said Ralston.
Ralston is grateful for the SPLOST funds and explains that the department would be in “dire straights” without the funding for the new cruisers.
“We wouldn’t be getting cars if it wasn’t for the SPLOST. We are glad the folks in the county voted for it,” said Ralston.