Proposal advances to stretch life of squad car

by Joni Astrup
Associate editor
Elk River intends to keep one of its squad cars for four rather than three years, in a cost-saving measure.
Mayor John Dietz had suggested the idea in April, and it was included as part of the 2012-2016 equipment replacement plan reviewed annually and considered by the City Council during a budget work session Aug. 15. While the council hasn’t formally acted on the 2012 budget, there was no objection raised that evening to keeping the squad car for an extra year.
The squad car is a 2009 Ford Crown Victoria. The city intends to track and evaluate the car’s maintenance costs during its fourth year of operation.
Dietz said he appreciated the police department’s willingness to try keeping a squad for four years.
The city currently retires its Ford Crown Victoria squad cars at approximately three years and 100,000 miles. The old squads are auctioned off. They sell for $2,500 to $4,500 and are typically bought by taxi cab companies, according to Elk River Police Chief Brad Rolfe.
The 2009 Crown Victoria that is proposed to be kept for a fourth year was scheduled to be replaced in 2012.
The police department plans to retire two other 2009 Crown Victorias in 2012. They are being replaced by two low-mileage 2010 Crown Victorias currently in use by sergeants in the police department. Two new Chevy Tahoes will replace the sergeants’ Crown Victorias.
The Tahoes are estimated to cost $33,000 each, which includes purchase, tear down of old squads, set up of the new ones, graphics and any additional equipment. Gas mileage on the Tahoes will be similar to the Crown Victorias, according to Rolfe.
Capt. Ron Nierenhausen told the council that Crown Victorias will no longer be made. They could be replaced by a new Ford prototype or the Chevy Caprice, but there is no data yet on how well those vehicles would perform as squad cars.
Nierenhausen said the two-wheel-drive Tahoe is “speed rated and pursuit rated” and has been field tested by law enforcement for a number of years.
“It’s a known entity,” he said.
As other law enforcement agencies try the new Ford prototype and the Caprice, Nierenhausen said they’ll have more information about what vehicles to purchase in the future.

Some old vehicles will find new uses
All told, the city is looking at spending $803,200 on wheeled equipment and vehicles in 2012.
Some of the other proposed purchases include:
•The public works department plans to replace a 1991 Elgin sweeper and a 1994 Cat loader. The new sweeper is estimated to cost $173,000 and the loader, $100,000. The old ones would be sold at an auction.
•The police department plans to replace two Chevy Impalas used by detectives. The cars are a 2004 and a 2005. One will replace the older vehicle used by the city’s administration and the other will replace the oldest mechanic loaner car. The replacement detective cars would be full-sized unmarked sedans estimated to cost $25,000 each, which includes purchase, tear down of the old vehicles, set up of the new ones and any additional equipment.
•The fire department intends to replace a 1988 Ford F350 one-ton grass unit at an estimated cost of $75,000. The old grass rig would be kept and used by the city’s parks department as a watering truck.
•A 2003 Chevy Tahoe used by the city’s fire marshal is scheduled to be replaced with a new full-sized SUV costing an estimated $40,000. Dietz wondered if a full-sized SUV was necessary. Fire Chief T. John Cunningham said four-wheel-drive is needed during the winter and the vehicle needs to be large enough to haul a significant amount of equipment, including a ladder. The old Tahoe would be transferred into the city’s building safety department to replace a pickup. The pickup would go to Pinewood Golf Course, eliminating the need for a new one.
In total, four vehicles up for replacement are proposed to be transferred to other uses in the city rather than auctioned off.
“I think that’s really great that we’re finding other uses for these vehicles rather than just dumping them,” Dietz said.
He also thanked members of the city’s Fleet Committee, chaired by Assistant Street Superintendent Mark Thompson, for their hard work on the equipment replacement plan for 2012.