Mammoth Police Chief Dan Watson told the Town Council recently that his current fleet of patrol cars is “dismal.” The Town’s vehicle replacement fund had been used to pay bankruptcy lawyers in recent years. Chief Watson said it was time for a replacement vehicle.
Watson said he has managed patrol fleets for many years. He said, “You can keep pouring money into old cars or buy a new one.” Watson said there was $55,000 available to the Police Department in the Vehicle Replacement Fund. The request went out to bid, and Bishop Ford gave the best bid at $34,340 for a Ford Explorer. An extra $15,000 would be spent by Town Maintenance to fit the patrol car with radios, gun racks and more. The Police Department has made no vehicle purchase in two years. The car set for replacement had racked up 124,000 miles in hard driving.
Councilman John Eastman thought the timing was bad. He pointed to the forecast of no snow and said it wasn’t a good time for a money decision. Interim Town Manager Dan Holler confirmed that the Town could “borrow” money from the Vehicle Replacement Fund for cash flow if needed. He said $600,000 now sits in the account, but he also said the Town would have no problem covering the cost of a police vehicle. Holler did recommend purchase of one patrol car instead of spending more money to repair a car, which the Chief said needs a new engine and major transmission overhaul.
Eastman said he thought March would be a better time to determine the expenditure. Chief Watson advised that as many as three cars may need major repairs. He said industry standards say patrol cars should be replaced at 80,000 to 100,000 miles on the odometer.
Eastman also said the public perception of seeing a new patrol car in town would not match with the Town’s structural budget deficit. “Things have to change,” he said. “We can’t print money. I’m willing to address this in March when we know more about the snow year.” The Council directed staff to come back.