... I stated before that...that during our current request was approximately $200,000, I said I think $250,000 less a couple of nights ago, but it was actually about $210,000 less than uh the year before. And that is uh that I wanted to show the Sheriff’s Office was doing its part in tighten its belt a little bit to uh share with the people of the County uh that we were gonna live within our means. We’re going to continue to live within our means as long as the the the economy is like it is. The State of Tennessee obviously is suffering its worst budget deficit in many, many years and so that you know that trickles down to the local government and we gotta, you know, continue to tighten our belt strap.”


          BY: PAT HUNTER

Analysts are predicting that fuel costs will go up to $5 per gallon by 2012 yet, Commission did not consider gas costs when Commission approved the Sheriff Department's request for more discontinued Crown Victoria's. The Purchasing Director prepared an analysis of maintenance costs of Sheriff's vehicles while omitting an analysis of fuel expenses. Sheriff Guider campaigned on saving $210,000 - $250,000 the budget before and tightening his belt!

On November 2009 Ford announced that they would work with a Police Advisory to design a new Police Interceptor with key features such as driver convenience and comfort, durability, safety, and reduced ownership costs. The new Ford Taurus Police Interceptor is advertised as more fuel efficient, up to 25 percent more fuel efficient, and better performance than the antiquated Crown Victoria. Nonetheless, the Purchasing Committee and Budget Committee recommended allocating $250,000 for ten more police cars but there was no discussion about fuel savings and the new Ford Taurus Police Interceptor or other makes or models. The new interceptor will be offered without interruption when the Crown Victoria is discontinued. Police departments across the country have been expanding their once Crown Vic-dominated fleets to include newer sedans, especially the Chevrolet Impala and Dodge Charger.

Prior to the start of the December 6, 2010 Loudon County Commission meeting, Finance Director Tracy Blair distributed the Sheriff’s FY 10-11 budget amendment spreadsheets with revisions and the effect on the fund balance to purchase 10 more cars for the Sheriff's Department. Commission had already approved ten new cars for the Sheriff's Dept. budget. The current FY 10-11 budget included 10 new cars for the Sheriff Department approved on June 10, 2010 but this request would amend his budget by $250,000 for an additional 10 new vehicles bringing the total to 20 new cars at an estimated  cost of $500,000.

Finance Director Tracy Blair explained the Purchasing Committee and Budget Committee's recommendation. Both committees examined the Sheriff's latest request to lease (finance) 19 vehicles, 150,000 per year for 3 years verses purchasing additional police vehicles.  The purchase of an additional 10 police vehicles would avoid incurring heavy cost next year with a purported savings on vehicle repair of $28,570 and a savings of $12,000 on equipment from surplus vehicles to retrofit new cars with equipment from old cars for an overall total of $40,570. Next year's proposed (FY11-12) Sheriff maintenance budget would be decreased by $28,000 and no appropriation for vehicles that year. With the added contingency of vehicles with high miles would be returned to the Purchasing Department as surplus and that new vehicles be used by road patrol deputies and that no unmarked vehicles are purchased with these funds. The Purchasing Committee recommended not entering into a lease agreement with Ford Motors Credit and that the Sheriff's budget be increased by $250,000 for additional cars in this fiscal year and that the Sheriff's Maintenance Budget for next year be decreased by $28,000 during FY 11-12 budget period and that the Sheriff's Budget not include an appropriation for cars during that period as well.  The Budget Committee added additional stipulations to the recommendation including:

  1. All cars purchased be utilized by the road deputies and no unmarked police cars for administrators.

  2. Vehicles with the highest mileage be returned to the Purchasing Dept. as surplus.

Commissioner Don Miller asked for clarification about the stipulations. Director Blair informed Commission that Mayor Estelle Herron had asked her to get clarification from the County Technical Assistance Service (CTAS) about Commission's authority. And a similar question about the surplus vehicles in the absence of a policy that at some point addresses what becomes of a vehicle becomes surplus does the Sheriff make that decision. Does Commission have the authority to appropriate funding with these stipulations or can the Sheriff determine what kind of vehicles are purchased with the approved funding. According to CTAS consultant, the legislative body (Commission) may appropriate funds but does not have the authority to tell the Sheriff what type of vehicles may be purchased by the Sheriff's Dept. or to surplus the Sheriff's surplus vehicles. And depending on the amount, the County must still follow policies and procedures that is purchasing the vehicles off the state contract or bidding the cars out.

Commissioner Yarbrough commented about her clarification; didn't the Sheriff come to Commission and ask for the Crown Vics so he was asking for specific vehicles and that wasn't a contingency. 

Commissioner Shaver shared his reasons why he could not vote for the expenditure. The Crown Vic is going away but with the current economic climate and the state of the budget, he was uncomfortable with appropriating 5% of the fund balance for "theoretical savings."

Commissioner Franke said that he had done some research and he looked at increased mileage and Dodge Chargers. Interestingly, when Sheriff Guider spoke to the Budget Committee back in May after being re-elected, Guider spoke about buying 3-4 Dodge Chargers because the patrol cars had a little better fuel efficiency and were roomier. However, his Asst. Chief Deputy Jimmie Davis when speaking before the Budget Committee in October proposed leasing 19 Crown Vics slated to be discontinued.  

Commissioner Steve Harrelson commented that he thought there would be some cost savings to the taxpayers in the future and he moved to make the recommendation, which was seconded by Commissioner Don Miller. Harrelson spoke about approving the purchase of ten more police cars at a cost of $250,000 for the Loudon County Sheriff’s Department and the Sheriff Dept not asking for more money next fiscal year.

Commissioner Franke asked are you going to order them at the same time. And the reason why we haven't ordered the other 10 (cars) asked Maples? Purchasing Director Leo Bradshaw commented that other counties were ordering 60 or 70. He finally answered the question because the Sheriff's Dept had asked that the lease be considered.

Commissioner Maples asked if the Purchasing Director had examined gasoline and fuel efficiency? Bradshaw replied that he did not  look close at that information.

Wasn't the Sheriff's request for 28 vehicles and the Budget approved 20 asked Commissioner Duff? Bradshaw replied that the original request was for 28 and the request from Alexander Ford was for 28 using $250,000 approved in the current year budget as the first year of the lease and a commitment for 2 years to make the lease payment.

Why did you prefer the lease over the purchase Commissioner Duff asked Jimmie Davis. Because it was a better deal 19 cars at $150,000 for 3 years replied Assistant Chief Jimmy Davis. Davis wasn't sure about 28 because the Sheriff's request was for 19 cars. He didn't mean to speak out of turn but he seemed to take offense at the questions why we haven't done this or that since he had worked hard and put alot of consideration into putting the car request together.  

When all was said and done, the motion sailed by a nine to one vote margin. Voting Aye were Commissioners Don Miller, Sharon Yarbrough, Harold Duff, Steve Harrelson, Bob Franke, Earlena Maples, David Meers, Brian Jenkins, and Chairman Roy Bledsoe, with one No vote cast by Commissioner Austin Shaver.

The proposed $250,000 expenditure would require dipping into the county reserve fund to help pay for the discontinued Crown Vic models. During the FY 10-11 budget process, Commission dipped into county reserves by over $1.0 million to fund the budget for a couple of years.

The Sheriff’s proposed budget started at $3,738,817.00, which included Commission's vote to approve 10 new cars in the Sheriff's Budget. But with other budget amendments and with the latest request of 10 additional Crown Victoria Police Interceptors and the amended budget grew to $4,015,859.  This is a whopping 15 percent (15%) increase to the Sheriff’s Budget over last year’s budget. Prior to the Primary Election, Sheriff Tim Guider campaigned about cutting his budget by $250,000, revised to $210,000.

Interestingly, there were several issues that were not discussed when Commission considered funding for more Crown Victorias; fuel costs and fuel efficiency and safety and liability concerns. The Crown Victoria has been criticized over safety concerns for allegedly being prone for catastrophic fires after high speed rear end incidents. One incident occurred in May 2010 when a Florida State trooper's 2006 Crown Victoria was struck from behind by another car, as the trooper was parked on the shoulder of a turnpike. The Crown Vic Police Car Interceptor burst into flames trapping and killing the trooper.  

Ford Motors announced that the Crown Vic Interceptors are scheduled to end production in 2011 in favor of a new Taurus unit which was designed in consultation with a Police Advisory. Ford boasts safety, lower ownership costs and better fuel efficiency up to 25% savings in fuel.

As a side note, Sheriff Guider did not make a public appearance for his second round of cars request.