By Sue Botos
Four new police vehicles will be ready to hit the streets pending approval by City Council.
Cost for the new wheels, 2017 Ford Interceptor SUVs, will total $107,779, with payment for two of the vehicles coming from the POPAS (Police On Patrol Arresting Speeders) general fund ($53,550). Two more, including a K-9 vehicle, will be covered by $54,249 from the city equipment purchase fund.
According to ordinance sponsor Ward 3 Councilman Michael O’Donnell, the cars will be obtained through the Ohio State Cooperative Purchasing Act from Lebanon Ford.
Administered through the state office of procurement, the city has been a part of the state purchasing co-op since 1988.
Safety-service Director Mary Kay Costello stated the Interceptors will replace three “line cars” or patrol vehicles: a 2008 Crown Victoria, a 2014 Dodge Charger and a 2010 Crown Victoria. A 2010 Ford Explorer K-9 unit will also be upgraded.
“The (police) chief and the mechanic agree that these cars should be replaced,” said Costello. Former police cars are sometimes repurposed to other city departments, but these will be sold at auction.
She said as much equipment as possible will be salvaged for use in the new SUVs, but moving to a different manufacturer does not always make this possible. Any gear that can’t be repurposed, she added, will also be auctioned.
Answering questions from council, Costello said it costs about $11,000 to transform the SUVs into police vehicles with sirens, lights, radios, bars, decals and other equipment. The K-9 unit requires an additional $3,000 for cages and climate control.
Costello noted the four old models have all racked up over 100,000 miles.
“What used to be a three-year cycle for car replacement has grown to four or five in years of bad economic times. This has exceeded what we feel is safe for our (officers),” she stated.
During further discussion at council’s committee session on Feb. 21, O’Donnell said the 2014 Charger was being replaced relatively soon due to mechanical issues. He requested council, with the agreement of Mayor Pam Bobst, should take a look at the maintenance logs for the vehicles to identify any recurring problems.
“Normally if a (former police) vehicle can be used in other areas, it’s usually done. But with the 2014 vehicle, we are unable to do that,” he stated.
While vehicles are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, police Chief Kelly Stillman, when reached by phone, said ideally, police patrol cars have a life span of about three years and 60,000 to 80,000 miles. He added it wasn’t unusual to replace four members of the fleet at one time.
Noting the move to the Ford Interceptors, Stillman said, “We’ve had some issues with the Chargers, but they are reliable police cars. We’ve had no issues with the Fords.”
He also noted the Chargers, which became the standard patrol car for the city when Crown Victorias ceased production in about 2013, are smaller, and a growing list of equipment and technology must be transported by officers.
Council also placed on the first of three required readings, during its Feb. 27 legislative session, a measure calling for the purchase of two additional Ford Interceptors, one for the recreation department and the other for the Rocky River Wastewater Treatment Plant.
These vehicles will be acquired through the state co-op from Lebanon Ford at a cost of $56,006.
Costello explained currently recreation Director Chris Mehling is assigned a 2002 Toyota Rav 4, which was obtained by the police department. “The Rav 4 has become unreliable,” she said, adding brakes and transmission have received work over the past year.
She added two pickup trucks, 2007 and 2008 models, are available for use at the wastewater treatment plant.