The city of Little Rock is planning to purchase 33 new police patrol vehicles for $1.5 million to replace outdated Ford Crown Victorias.
The Little Rock Board of Directors must approve the purchase at its 6 p.m. meeting Tuesday before the Fleet Services Department can move forward with the buy.
The city wants to buy 33 vehicles -- all Ford Police Interceptor sedans and sport utility vehicles -- through a state contract with Landers Ford in Benton. With the board's approval, the city can put in the order this week and receive the vehicles by the end of the year, City Manager Bruce Moore said.
After the vehicles arrive, it will take another two months to upfit them for police patrol use. That typically includes adding lights, sirens, prisoner containment systems, vehicle wrapping, computers, modems and camera surveillance equipment, Fleet Services Director Wendell Jones said.
If everything stays on schedule, the vehicles could be ready for use by the police department March 1.
The $1.5 million price tag includes the cost to outfit the vehicles. Each vehicle is $26,482 from the dealer, and the outfitting costs another $19,000 per vehicle.
Moore said he found one-time funds to make the unexpected vehicle purchase.
"After reviewing the current revenue projections for the balance of the year, I feel confident our revenue will support this one-time expenditure," he said, referring to revenue from a 1 percent sales tax increase approved by voters in 2011. The revenue from that tax had fallen below projections in the past.
Moore plans to put forth a budget amendment for the board's approval later this month reflecting the additional expenditure for the police vehicles and other changes, he said.
He typically would wait to ask for a purchase approval after a budget amendment was passed, but the vehicle order needs to be put in as soon as possible to have the vehicles delivered by the end of this year, Moore told the board Tuesday.
The 33 new vehicles will help the city retire some older Crown Victorias.
The city began purchasing Dodge Chargers instead of Crown Victorias in 2012 with the help of the sales tax increase. The Chargers haven't been performing as expected and that's why the city is moving to Ford Police Interceptors, Moore said.
The city has had front-end and suspension problems with the Chargers and problems with the body being low to the ground. There also have been air conditioner problems, cooling system failures, transmission problems and mechanical troubles with camshafts and lifters, city spokesman Jennifer Godwin said.
Even with the problems the city has had with the Chargers, officials decided to replace the Crown Victorias first because of their ages and conditions. The Chargers will be replaced later as they age, Godwin said.
There are 404 vehicles in the Police Department -- 367 of them marked and unmarked patrol units. That number likely won't change after the new purchases, because the city hopes to retire as many older vehicles as it gains.
Of the patrol units, 142 are Ford Crown Victorias. Also included are 101 Chevrolet Impalas, 64 Dodge Chargers, 16 Ford Interceptor sedans, 14 Ford Interceptor sport utility vehicles, 12 motorcycles, 9 Chevrolet Tahoes and 9 Toyota Camrys.
Police officers have made several complaints about performance and maintenance issues with older police vehicles.
Moore's announcement to purchase new units comes after the Police Department's independently run union, the Fraternal Order of Police, recently hired an out-of-town consultant to audit the Fleet Services Department.
Ohio-based accountant Wade Steen wrote in his report that the Fleet Services Department runs inefficiently and that the age of police vehicles is a problem. The city needs a better replacement program, Steen wrote.
Moore plans to fly Steen in to discuss the report sometime soon, the city manager previously said.
"Reviewing the audit and receiving an overview of the age and mileage of the fleet were factors [in deciding to purchase 33 new vehicles]. However, determining the overall revenue projections was the deciding factor," Moore said.
Members of the Fraternal Order of Police also have been complaining about the lack of employee raises this year. Moore and the city board opted to provide one-time bonuses in lieu of raises due to a lack of funding.
Moore said Wednesday that he decided to use the extra $1.5 million found in this year's budget for patrol vehicles because employee raises would be an ongoing expense, which wouldn't be covered by the one-time funds.
"We have seen a lot of volatility in our sales tax in recent months and I just feel replacing our aging LRPD patrol fleet is a priority. As we improve the overall age of the fleet, the city's maintenance costs should decrease," he said.
Metro on 10/19/2015
Print Headline: 33 new police cars on agenda for LR