Sheriff's budget reflects need to return to cruiser replacement schedule

A new cruiser topped the list of budget requests for the Auglaize County sheriff in 2012.
In presenting his requests Thursday to the Auglaize County commissioners, Sheriff Al Solomon’s proposed budget of more than $4.3 million is $56,000, or a 1 percent increase, from 2011.
Included in the budget was a $5,000 increase to $95,000 for law enforcement supplies, a $5,000 increase to $200,000 for jail supplies, and a $6,500 increase to $16,500 for jail equipment.
Another $16,000 was added to the budget for mental health services, which is being paid for through a grant the Sheriff’s Office received. Additional increases were submitted as remodeling continues on the central dispatch center.
“The jail population has been OK so far, which has been surprising with the economy over the last few years,” Solomon said as he presented his budget.
He said he was requesting increases in supplies and equipment to prepare for what could be an influx based on new state legislation, as well as high fuel costs, but the largest line item which he hoped would be reflected in his budget in 2012 covered costs of a new cruiser.
After requesting both a detective car and a cruiser out of $125,000 in law enforcement equipment for 2011, Solomon said he was asking for the same, to cover a new cruiser and possibly new equipment to put inside it in 2012.
“We talked about looking at a Ford Explorer,” Solomon said. “With state pricing it may not be that big of a difference and we may be able to use some equipment on a trade-in.”
Ford Crown Victorias, which deputies have driven for years, are no longer available, the sheriff said, instead law enforcement offices around the state are moving to Explorers, Chargers and other vehicles. He explained existing equipment used to outfit those vehicles as cruisers can’t easily be shifted from the old cars.
“The equipment we have won’t fit and we’ll have to end up buying new,” Auglaize County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Mike Eberle said.
Even Ford’s answer to the Crown Victoria — the Taurus — is a smaller car, but something Solomon said he is considering as he’s always been happy with Fords and the relationship he has built with local vendors through the years.
Cruisers in line to be replaced by the office in the next few years include ones with 199,000, 193,000 and 151,000 miles. Even a new one won a couple years ago in a state contest has 121,000 miles on it, Eberle said.
“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.”
Previously, two new cruisers were purchased every year as part of a rotation to replace cars with less than 100,000 miles on them, but as economic times got harder, less cruisers have been purchased and those being replaced now have close to 200,000 miles on them.
“Those are what I like to call ‘deputy miles,’ ” Solomon said. “They are not driven like I would drive a car at home.”
Due to the age and mileage on the cruisers as they are being rotated out of service now, the Sheriff’s Office also isn’t getting the same trade-in value they did for them before.
If a new cruiser isn’t in the budget for 2012, Solomon said more money for repairing the old ones will need to be.
“Looking down the road a ways, it gets to be expensive maintaining the sheer number of older vehicles you have,” Commissioner John Bergman said.
He recommended finding a way to get rid of some of those older vehicles and get back on the two-year rotation for replacing cruisers.
“Work to get rid of some of those vehicles in the fleet which are nickel and diming you so you don’t end up with a lot of vehicles with a lot of miles that are going to wack us in the rear-end,” Bergman said. “It’s time to start looking at getting back into the rotation with the cruisers and the equipment inside.”
Solomon said he was concerned when they left the rotation a few years ago, but it was something that was discussed thoroughly and seemed to be the best option at the time. Plans now are to start looking ahead and getting the revenue to allow for future budgets to cover the once annual two-cruiser rotation.