The Statesboro Police Department continues to update its fleet. City Council unanimously agreed this week for the department to seek bids for 11 new vehicles.
Those will include nine marked patrol vehicles plus two unmarked cars. The total budgeted cost is capped at $545,000, which will include the vehicles and added equipment.
In February when the department was approved to buy and equip nine vehicles, they were purchased through a program that gives local governments the same price that the state gets on a large order. Eight of those vehicles were Ford Police Interceptor SUVs, the ninth a Ford F-150 pickup. This time, the city is putting specifications out for bids.
“I know we used that last time, but we’ve had some local vendors tell us that they really want to be able to bid on that, and so we’re going to put it out to bid this time to allow local vendors an opportunity to see if they can beat the state bid,” Chief of Police Mike Broadhead told the council. “If they can, then great. If they cannot, then we’ll go with the state bid.”
But the SUV-style Police Interceptor will still be the model that most easily meets Statesboro’s specifications for patrol vehicles, he said.
The February purchase was in the previous fiscal year. A new fiscal year began July 1, and the new bids will be for this year’s only planned police vehicle order.
“Are we just going to go with the lowest bid?” District 1 Councilman Phil Boyum asked. “I mean, there has got to be some cost savings if you stay with just one kind of car because they’re all the same.”
“Our goal is to put a very specific spec sheet out requesting that,” Broadhead said. “One of the things we’re very happy with, with the Ford product is that they’re giving us a seven-year warranty, which is about the life of a patrol car that’s assigned to one person over the duration.”
The SPD is moving to the use an onboard police information computer that also comes with a seven-year warranty. The SUVs designed for police use also have a beefed-up electrical system that supports the added demands of strobe lights, a public-address system and the computer, he said.
City Manager Randy Wetmore was behind the move to allow for local bids. State contract orders are fulfilled by specific Georgia dealerships, and those on the previous award were many miles from Statesboro.
“With a lot of items that we look at, we look to see if there’s an opportunity for the local vendor to have that ability to bid, even if that’s working through the state contract,” Wetmore said. “Sometimes with the state contract they can work something out where they can still benefit. … We’re just trying to help the local guy the best we can.”
Last year’s tax hike
The funding for the patrol cars comes from last year’s 1-mill property tax increase.
In September 2017, City Council voted for the full-mill hike after then-Mayor Jan Moore proposed an increase of at least a half mill to fund raises for police officers in an effort to fill vacancies and slow turnover. Council members said they wanted any revenue resulting from the increase above the cost of the raises to go to other public safety purposes.
The added mill, or 1,000th the tax-assessed value of property, brought in about $647,000, and the raises were projected to cost roughly $425,000 for a year. Because the raises started Jan. 1, halfway through the city’s fiscal year, and the SPD was short of its budgeted number of officers, additional revenue was left for the vehicle purchases, said city Finance Director Cindy West.
From the proposed six-year extension of Bulloch County’s existing Special Purpose Local Option Sales tax, set for a Nov. 6 referendum, the city will receive a potential $1.75 million for police vehicle purchases. But revenue from that SPLOST will not begin to arrive until late 2019. Meanwhile, the current SPLOST has fallen short.
“Originally these cars were going to be purchased out of the 2013 SPLOST but that revenue did not keep up with projections, and so the funding for this has come from the mill increase last year that we collected in December,” Broadhead told the council
The Police Department has a total fleet of around 70 vehicles, including about 58 patrol cars and patrol SUVs. It continues to operate some cars purchased as far back as 2005 and with more than 170,000 miles on them. About two years ago the department began replacing its older sedans with SUVs.
“That money is available to be used, and frankly we need it to keep our fleet healthy, actually to get it back to being healthy,” Broadhead said.
Also Tuesday, the council unanimously approved funding to replace the automated locking system at the SPD headquarters. About one-third of the door locks in the building and the gate on what is supposed to be the secure parking lot no longer work, Broadhead reported. The system is 11 years old, and the vendor no longer supports it.
But the door still locks on the evidence vault, he assured the council.
The city will also obtain bids for the lock system.