2013-10-17 / Front Page

County: Sheriff’s dept.can purchase 3 used vehicles

Patrol cars a ‘steal’ at $2,200 a piece

MANISTIQUE – The Schoolcraft County Sheriff’s Department will be purchasing three used patrol cars to add to its fleet. The purchase was approved during Tuesday’s meeting of the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners.

According to Commissioner Dan LaFoille, the Mackinac County Sheriff’s Department is currently replacing its entire fleet of vehicles and offered Sheriff John Norrington the chance to purchase up to four of the vehicles. The vehicles, 2009 models with approximately 100,000 miles, were offered at $2,200 a piece – below the estimated public auction price of $4,500.

LaFoille said he and Commissioner Al Grimm suggested purchasing two of the vehicles.

“We can enhance our ability to transport prisoners for various reasons, and employees that go to training so they don’t have to use their personal car,” he explained. “And, of course, have a back-up vehicle for when the main car goes out of town.”

He noted the vehicles have “cages”, making them usable for transporting inmates. The money to pay for the vehicles would be taken out of leftover funds from the jail’s roof repair. Additional money would come from selling the department’s old pickup truck.

Commissioner Craig Reiter, who identified himself as a certified mechanic explained that in his “professional mechanic opinion”, cars would be a bad investment.

“Putting used vehicles into a fleet is always bad,” he said. “These cars aren’t driven to church on Sunday by grandma – they’re rode hard and put away wet … we’re now going to start realizing a lot of repairs.”

Undersheriff Darrell Dixon explained that the cars would offer the department security in knowing they could respond to calls, as well as offer a presence in the community. He also noted the cars would require the same amount of maintenance as any other vehicle.

“I’m not a professional mechanic, however, I’ve been buying cars a long time,” he said. “I don’t care what we buy – new or not – there is going to be a certain amount of maintenance that is going to have to be done to maintain a vehicle.”

Norrington noted he and Dixon had looked at the cars personally, and selected the best ones. He also explained the Mackinac County deputies were issued the cars, and would drive them to their homes each night.

“They take care of their cars – that’s why they’re in pretty good shape,” he said.

While Reiter noted the cars would require additional insurance, plates, and maintenance, Dixon pointed out that the vehicles would save the department money in the short-term.

“These vehicles would serve a purpose at a great savings,” he said. “That one vehicle that we have – we’re working that one vehicle so much … we’re going to be coming in here asking for another $35,000 vehicle.”

LaFoille agreed, pointing out the county could afford some maintenance, but they wouldn’t have the money to buy new anytime soon.

“In the short term, $2,200 for a road-ready vehicle that can back you up – I’m not against that,” he said.

While LaFoille made the motion to purchase two cars, and was supported by Commissioner Jerry Zellar, Zellar rescinded his support to make his own motion to purchase three. Zellar justified the motion by saying the price of the vehicles was well worth the advantage they would give the department.

His motion was supported by Commissioner Sue Cameron, who noted the county couldn’t afford to pass up the deal.

Schoolcraft County Clerk Dan McKinney chimed in with his opinion on the purchase, pointing out his office struggles with an old printer and other county offices are also dealing with issues they have to live with.

“Spending money is not a savings,” he said. “Maybe there’s something wrong with me, but let’s buy three cars because it’s a good deal? … That is absurd.”

Reiter and LaFoille cast “no” votes, while Grimm, Cameron, and Zellar voted “yes”. The motion passed.

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