The Bluffton Police Department will swap out seven of its oldest cruisers for seven newer models.
The Bluffton Town Council's unanimous decision Monday to buy seven news patrol cars was driven by the availability of a low-interest loan and the high number of miles racked up on some of the department's older cars. The department has 39 vehicles, nine of which have more than 100,000 miles.
Each of the new 2011 Ford Crown Victorias costs about $24,000, according to a finance summary submitted to council. Director of finance Shirley Freeman said the cars would be paid for over the next four years with a $168,000 loan.
Police Chief David McAllister said he only budgeted for two cars this fiscal year, but high mileage on several of the department's cars pushed him to request five more cruisers.
"It was my sincere hope to stagger this out until July," he told council. "We were on a double-down bet, and it just didn't work out."
McAllister said he could also save money by buying the 2011 model, the last year of the Crown Victoria, because equipment from older cruisers is compatible with it.
"Right now I can pilfer most of that equipment," McAllister said. "Next year I'll be unable to do that, so there's going to be a cost ... of about $8,000 to outfit."
The department hasn't bought a new car since 2008. It hopes to buy seven to 10 cars a year during the next three years to rotate out older cars, McAllister said.
The proposal to council said the department has taken steps to lengthen the life of its cars, including limiting off-duty use.
"One hundred thousand miles on a police car is more like 130,000 on any other," said town manager Anthony Barrett. "It's very different wear than an ordinary car."
Mayor Lisa Sulka said she saw the department's need, but asked McAllister to give more notice in the future.
"It's not quite a shock to me, but ... let's get out there and forecast a little better," she said.
The new cruisers are in the shop now, but should be on the road soon after they're fitted with equipment, McAllister said.
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