Sewell, who has been reshaping the department since his swearing-in last July, said the city is in desperate need of replacing its 14 police cars, which are above the recommended mileage limit of 60,000 miles. The average mileage of the cars, purchased between 2005 and 2008, is 92,000 miles, with some having as many as 150,000 miles, he said.
Whenever an officer needs to respond to a citizen’s emergency call, that officer is putting his or her life at risk in a high-mileage vehicle whose engine runs 24-hours a day and undergoes more stress than the average person’s vehicle, said Sewell.
“Because of the requirement to respond to calls for service in the manner in which we do, often we’re going over curbs or having to negotiate railroad crossings faster than we would in non-emergency situations,” he said.
In addition, there are not enough patrol cars for all of the department’s 29 officers, which means they have to share vehicles. So when an officer finishes his or her shift, another officer will hop into the same car that is constantly running, Sewell said.
“We don’t have a maintenance division in the police department, so anytime we have a car worked on, that takes two police officers out of service to take that car to a shop, whether that be to our Public Works to let them change the oil or do minor service on,” said Sewell.
“But someone has to pick up that officer and bring him back to his or her patrol car.”
The police chief said $44,000 was budgeted to his department this fiscal year for repairs to the fleet of Ford Crown Victoria cars. As of Jan. 5, the department had already spent 51 percent of that budget, Sewell said.
A fully-equipped patrol car is estimated to cost around $30,000.
As a way to save money over time, Sewell recently presented a plan to the Powder Springs City Council at its Dec. 28 work session that includes the city leasing its patrol cars as opposed to buying pricey new ones on a regular basis. That way, fresh cars would be rotated in the police fleet.
Sewell said a three-year lease purchase, offered at a low interest rate from the Georgia Municipal Association, would cost about $5,000 a month or less than $60,000 annually for five preferably Chevrolet cars and another five cars in July. Three new cars would be leased every fiscal year to maintain fresh patrol cars.
Councilwoman Rosalyn Neal said last week that she and her fellow council members have not made a decision on whether to replace the patrol cars. Currently, the city is preparing its budget for fiscal year 2013, which begins July 1.
“What happens with a lot of cities is that they think because times are tough financially, we’ll just cut back on buying police cars,” said Sewell. “But what happens is it gets more expensive in the long run because your maintenance costs skyrocket.”