It’s been a long time coming, but Columbus Police Department is finally getting new vehicles.
The city council voted unanimously at last week’s meeting to approve a replacement plan with Enterprise Fleet Management that will rotate out the department’s vehicles over the next several years.
The program is essentially a lease-purchase agreement. Vehicles would be rotated out of service on a schedule determined by their use. The old vehicles will be resold, often at a profit, due to the fact that CPD as a government entity can buy them at a lower price, according to Enterprise Fleet Management leadership.
Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office entered into a similar arrangement late last year.
According to Police Chief Fred Shelton, the department will receive 12 new cars right off the bat.
“We’re going to get five new SUVs, five new (Dodge) Chargers for patrol and two pickups,” he said. “One of those will go to (the Criminal Investigations Division) and the other to Animal Control.”
After that, the department will begin cycling out the oldest vehicles in its fleet of roughly 40 cars, Shelton said. He estimated that it will take three to five years to replace every car in the fleet. The contract lasts for 60 months.
The first to go will be about 10 venerable Crown Victorias, he said. Shelton estimated that the least hard-used of the Crown Vics has upwards of 200,000 miles on it.
“We’ve been keeping some of them around just to cannibalize them for parts to keep the others running,” Shelton said.
It’s been about five years since the department has gotten brand-new cars, Shelton said.
“We bought ten new cars in 2017,” he said. “In 2018 we bought used Dodge Chargers from the Missouri Highway Patrol.”
All of those used cars had 50,000 miles on them at the time of purchase, he said.
The new vehicles will be delivered with lights, sirens, cages, logos, and all necessary bells and whistles, Shelton said, with the exception of radios.
“We can take our radios out of the old cars and put them in the new ones, so there’s no extra cost,” he said.
According to figures that Enterprise provided to Shelton, the department is projected to save about $290,000 in maintenance costs over 10 years with this fleet management plan.
Chief Financial Officer James Brigham thought it would be hard to put a number on the savings right now.
“The savings are hard to determine because it fluctuates with the value of the cars depreciating,” he said. “Right now used cars are a lot more expensive than they used to be.”
The prices of vehicles acquired through the plan are also hard to nail down right now due to issues with availability. Shelton said the purchase plan allows flexibility when it comes to exactly which vehicles are acquired.
“We will get any vehicle that matches our specifications,” he said. “For example, if it’s an SUV, instead of a Ford Explorer we may get a Chevrolet Traverse instead. With patrol vehicles it may not necessarily be a Charger, but it will be something that meets the same specifications.”
Brigham said the city will monitor the process to make sure all the prices remain competitive.
The swap-outs will begin as soon as possible depending on the availability of the vehicles, Shelton said.
Mayor Keith Gaskin said he thinks the plan was a good idea.
“I am a big proponent of these types of programs because of the savings with maintenance and upkeep of our vehicles,” Gaskin said. “A lot of vehicles in the city are showing a lot of age, whether it’s the police department or Public Works. I think it’s safe to say we’ll be considering this in other areas of the city as well.”
Brian Jones is the local government reporter for Columbus and Lowndes County.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.