Rock Hill OKs $5 million for new vehicles, including 24 more police SUVs

adouglas@heraldonline.comNovember 26, 2012 

— Rock Hill will buy 24 additional Chevrolet Tahoes for police next year – doubling the number of sport utility vehicles in the department’s fleet.

New Tahoes will replace smaller Rock Hill Police Department patrol cars which have been in use for at least five years.

The department has said its Chevy Impala and Caprice patrol cars aren’t big enough to hold two officers and the necessary equipment. Police also needed to consider other vehicle options because Ford discontinued the Crown Victoria in 2010.

City Council members unanimously approved spending $5 million to buy the 24 police SUVs and 30 other municipal vehicles Monday night. It was the second of two votes needed to approve the purchase of the vehicles.

At a Nov. 12 meeting, councilman Kevin Sutton and Mayor Pro-Tem John Black voted against the purchase, saying then that city officials hadn’t provided a cost comparison for police package add-ons to the vehicles.

At about $25,000, the cost of a Tahoe before adding a police package is about $1,500 less than the cost of a Caprice and about $4,800 more than the cost of an Impala.

To outfit one Tahoe with police equipment costs $10,134 – about $2,000 more than it costs to outfit a Caprice or Impala.

Part of the outfit cost includes adding cages which provide a barrier between the backseat and the driver.

In a Tahoe, two $800 cages are needed – one to block the backseat from the front seat and one to keep backseat passengers from reaching the rear storage space. In a Caprice or Impala, only one cage is needed.

Fuel costs for the Tahoe will be more expensive, Sutton said Monday. He voted with the rest of the council to approve the vehicle purchases but said he still isn’t convinced the police department needs 48 Tahoes.

The police department has said the Tahoes are especially useful for training, when two officers ride in the front seat.

There aren’t 48 training officers at the department, Sutton said, so the city didn’t need to necessarily buy more without knowing all costs involved, such as fuel consumption.

Predicted fuel costs for an Impala for five years is $18,823, for a Tahoe it’s $21,333 and for a Caprice it’s $22,857, according to the city’s estimates.

Rock Hill aims to replace some city vehicles every year. Depending on their use, vehicles are replaced every five, seven or 10 years to reduce maintenance costs.

Monday’s approval to spend $5 million is about $1.5 million more than is typical for one year, making up for spending cuts the past few years.

No new city vehicles were purchased in 2009 and fewer vehicles were replaced in 2010 and 2011, said Steven Gibson, Rock Hill’s budget director.

Other vehicle purchases approved Monday include several sanitation and public works trucks for trash and recycling pick-up and two Tahoes and one ladder truck for the Rock Hill Fire Department.

The fire truck costs $600,000 and is likely to be used at least 10 years before being replaced.

Vehicles that will clean and help maintain stormwater systems are also included in the purchasing plan.

One “street sweeper” with a vacuum and filtration system costs $248,500 and is likely to be used five years. Another stormwater excavator, which will be used 10 years before replacement, costs $344,080.

In a typical budget year, Gibson said, Rock Hill spends about $3.5 million to replace some of its fleet. It’s expected, he said, that spending $5 million on vehicle purchases will not happen every year and that spending will return to normal levels over the next few years.

Anna Douglas 803-329-4068

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