Sheriff: Cruisers needed

With miles continuing to rack up, repairs costing more on older vehicles and with one cruiser taken out of the rotation after a recent crash, the Auglaize County sheriff is asking for another cruiser.

Odometers in the Sheriff's Office fleet of road cruisers continue to rise, including two vehicles with more than 200,000 miles each, one with more than 180,000, and one with more than 138,000. Even newer vehicles are putting on the miles at 36,000 and 51,000, both of which because of increased use due to other cruisers no longer in the rotation, could be approaching 100,000 by the end of the year, Sheriff Al Solomon said.

The sheriff’s vehicle has 178,000 miles but has other failing components, while Chief Deputy Mike Eberle’s vehicle has 204,000 miles. Both are used to respond to calls as needed.

An SUV used by the K-9 unit also has aged after being bought used more than six years ago, but some drug funds or donations may be able to be used toward making an update there.

“Because they are old, we are running into maintenance issues,” Eberle said. “They’ve started to get the wear and tear that comes with that.”

“They are nickel and dining us,” Solomon said. “It seems like as the cruisers start getting older things start happening.

“The bottom line is, we think we need to get back into the rotation,” he said. “Besides the one we have ordered, we’d like to get another one this year.”

The Sheriff’s Office still hasn’t received a Ford Explorer approved in the department’s budget for 2012 and can get no word on a possible arrival date and have waited six months already.

“We are down one and waiting on another,” Solomon said. “The guys are driving more careful, but anything could happen and we’d be down two.”

They requested the commissioners give back to them the $6,800 paid from insurance on the cruiser a deputy crashed in June while responding to an emergency call. The insurance money would help supplement their budget after making some transfers to pay for another cruiser yet this year, with plans to get back into an annual rotation of purchasing two new cruisers in 2013.

“We are sitting pretty good on the corrections side of the budget,” Solomon said, noting they give as much money back as they can each year as well.

Until 2009, when the economy declined, the Sheriff’s Office had purchased two new cruisers each year to replace cars with less than 100,000 miles on them, but since then, less replacements have been purchased and those being replaced have closer to 200,000 miles on them.

Referring to those miles as “deputy miles,” Solomon said they cause more wear and tear than the average driver of his home vehicle. The additional wear and tear also has added up to lower trade-in values.

“My problem is the guys on the road running cruisers with 200,000 miles not running citizen speed and going to calls,” Solomon said of concerns.

At the time the office’s 2012 budget was approved, Commissioner John Bergman said it is getting expensive to maintain the larger number of older vehicles in the fleet and he recommended finding a way to get rid of some of those older vehicles and get back into the two cruiser per year rotation.

Solomon has said since they left the rotation that he was concerned about it, but it was discussed thoroughly and seemed to be the best option at the time.

Considering a Ford Taurus or another Ford Explorer to add to the fleet as a new cruiser, Eberle expressed some concern that even if they ordered it now, the wait could be several months, while mileage and potential problems on existing cruisers continues to increase.

There also was some discussion that Explorers, at a cost of approximately $31,000 including cages, lightbars and other equipment, may be the longer lasting, sturdier option.

Some efforts also were going to be made to check on bidding requirements, which recently may have changed, allowing the Sheriff’s Office to find what it needs cheaper and faster with a better trade-in value from a local dealer.

“We just don’t know,” Solomon said of which they would like better. “We need durability.”

The estimated gas mileage difference between the two vehicles is a couple miles.

The crashed cruiser, which had 180,000 miles, and one with more than 200,000 miles would be the first two to be replaced as new cruisers become available.

“If we get a second one right now and work on the budget then next year we would get back onto the rotation,” Solomon said.

Sheriff’s Office officials said they need one more than the two they have ordered.

The sheriff said he didn’t want the situation to get where it was years ago when so many cruisers would be down at a time that they were doing constant repairs and using auxiliary cars to get by.