Commission to vote on additional cars for sheriff's office

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January 30, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---The Richmond County Sheriff's Office needs some new cars, and the sheriff says there's finally enough money to get them.

But two commissioners say it's a waste of your money.

When patrol cars get banged up or break down, they sit at Fleet Management until they get repaired. Col. Gary Powell of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office says there are so many cars off the streets and sitting there because they are too they want new ones.

With officers responding to calls and transporting prisoners all day, every day, their cars get plenty of wear and tear.

"They break down a lot; the cost to maintain them is a lot," Col. Powell said.

Now the sheriff's office is asking the Commission for 40 new road patrol cars and two motorcycles.

Col. Powell says many of the vehicles deputies are driving are well over the 4-year life expectancy--some with nearly 200,000 miles on them.

"We got over 100 cars with over 100,000 miles," Col. Powell said. "These should have been replaced when they hit 100,000 miles."

The new cars would cost $1.1 million. The finance committee has said okay, but now the full Commission has to approve it.

Commissioners Calvin Holland and Marion Williams both say it may be a waste of money, and feel continual maintenance is a better option.

We asked the city's fleet manager, Ron Crowden, if the million-dollar purchase is really necessary.

"The answer to the question is yes," Crowden said.

Crowden says that in addition to the cars that come in mashed and mangled, the number coming into his department needing major repairs is increasing...and it's costing a lot.

He says 100,000 miles on a patrol car is really equal to 200,000 in terms of wear and tear and feels replacement is the best way to keep high maintenance costs down.

"The problem with public safety is, do you want to wait till it breaks down on the road before you fix it?" Crowden said.

Col. Powell also says it's embarrassing for officers and for the city when they are responding to calls and their cars break down.

It's a choice between new cars or paying for maintenance--a choice city leaders will have to make. The vote goes before the Commission next Tuesday.

Aiken County just approved five new cars for deputies about six months ago. That cost about $25,000.

Graniteville residents protested because money was coming from the disaster release fund.

Now, Sheriff Michael Hunt is asking the county for money for more deputies.