“None of the state contract vehicles were very fuel-efficient. That was a big thing. We spend a lot on gasoline every year,” LaRocque said. “It just so happened that Kia happened to be the best out there. The cost of the car and fuel savings coupled with the warranty made it a no brainer.”
The Kias, carrying a 10-year 100,000 warranty, came fully equipped for $20,000 apiece compared to around $27,000 for the typical cruiser.
Sheriff Bill Massee likes that the Kia Optima is Georgia made. Kia’s West Point factory produces 360,000 vehicles per year, while providing more than 3,000 jobs.
“It had a good reputation and also is a Georgia product,” Massee said. “It’s very hard for somebody to question why we would buy something different especially when it’s built in West Point, Ga.”
Currently, the Optimas are under evaluation. The sheriff wants to get through the end of the year to see how they really function under law enforcement conditions considering fuel and maintenance savings.
Pending the results, the BCSO might have more Kias on the street. Hutchinson wants to help.
“This is a relationship we could build that helps Baldwin County and Hutchinson Kia,” he said.
Deason said being the first law enforcement agency with striped out Kias shows the foresight of county leadership’s use of resources to get more bang for taxpayer bucks. The sheriff’s office isn’t scared to embrace new thinking to serve better.
“Historically, we’ve never been scared of change. Some people don’t like change, and we’ve become accustomed to it,” the sheriff said. “You’d be surprised at the other law enforcement people that see these vehicles that say ‘I didn’t know you could do that with a car.’ These show something different, not just in Baldwin County, but also in law enforcement as a whole.”
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