The Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office used ingenuity to make best use of county tax dollars, while providing a much needed department vehicle fleet update.
Baldwin County Commissioners approved a five-year lease to replace 13 vehicles Tuesday. The proposed lease at just more than $333,927 with a 1.9 percent interest rate will be paid from the current budget with no additional funds required.
Capt. Lynnette LaRocque suggested freezing two vacant deputy positions for the duration of the lease to cover the annual lease payments of $70,457. The salary, benefits and savings from reductions in maintenance and fuel cost handles that figure.
“It just seemed like the way to go,” she said.
LaRocque said the BCSO really needs to upgrade parts of the 60-plus vehicle fleet every year.
The county purchased enough cars to enhance a portion of the fleet a year and a half ago.
“Before we had the first upgrade, we were spending right at $300,000 a year in maintenance costs,” LaRocque said. “We did that last year and our costs were $120,000. The bulk of what your spending maintenance dollars on is still these older vehicles.”
BCSO will purchase 11 Ford Interceptor 2014 sedans with police equipment and upfits, as well as two more Kia Optimas for administrative use at the courthouse and Baldwin High School.
“The vehicles we are going to be replacing our Ford Crown Victorias. They range anywhere from 2001 to 2005 (models),” LaRocque said. “Some of these vehicles have between 200,000 and 260,000 miles on them. We are definitely spending a good amount of maintenance money on those vehicles just trying to keep them on the road.”
Fuel efficiency drops as the miles increase. Deputies have experienced car breakdown issues during inmate transport also.
The Interceptors will go to patrol deputies. With the approved vehicle additions, LaRocque said “all but maybe two” active patrol officers would have relatively new cars.
The 2014 Fords feature a 10-year 100,000-mile power train warranty as well.
“The Interceptors are matching what the Kias are offering,” LaRocque said.
The department has two 2013 Kia Optima cars currently assigned to courthouse duties.
According to Michael Hutchinson of Hutchinson Kia in Macon, these vehicles are the first ever sold for governmental use. Both 4-cyclinder, 200-horsepower Optimas are equipped like a normal patrol cruiser minus the cage. Added safety features such as Bluetooth technology and a rear back-up camera help during day-to-day operations.
The Kias gets twice the gas mileage of the Crown Victoria and carry the 10-year 100,000 warranty.
Besides oil changes, the Optimas don’t cost much to maintain. LaRocque said the vehicles get nearly 30 miles per gallon.
“The deputies assigned to them just love those cars,” she said.
The BCSO will search for more creative ways to keep deputies riding efficiently and dependably.
“What we hope to do in the next few years until there is money somewhere else to buy new vehicles is to see if we can find used vehicles that don’t have tons of miles and are still in good mechanical condition,” LaRocque said. “The problem is that no one is changing out cars like they used to because everyone has the same economic problems all over the place. Hopefully, we can start getting some good, used vehicles next year.”