By Hendley Badcock
Buena Vista Police Chief Darrell Slagle’s request for six new vehicles has been denied for the time being. City Manager Jay Scudder said there is little flexibility in the budget and the department should run its 12 police cars longer than it has in the past.
“It’s the right thing to do for the city,” Scudder said.
Scudder said he met with Slagle repeatedly over the last several weeks to discuss the vehicles’ mileages.
“We’re switching cars at 60 to 65,000 miles and, in some cases, even 58,000,” Scudder said. Scudder said officials in most municipalities, including Lexington, aim for a minimum of 100,000 miles.
Slagle did not accept this without protest.
“The more mileage, the more risk,” the chief said. “You don’t know when vehicles will break down.”
Lewis Plogger, city council member and retired police chief, sided with Slagle.
“It’s not like when your car has 80,000 miles on it,” Plogger said of the police cars, which idle all day when not in use. “They’re running all the time.”
The police department is used to buying six new cars every three years. Based on that cycle the city should be penciling in the payments for Slagle’s request right now. But the city’s continued financial burden from the construction of the Vista Links Golf Course has forced Buena Vista to keep a close eye on its budget.
“The whole city’s financial crisis is because of the elephant in the room,” Scudder said in reference to the golf course.
Slagle said the police department asks for $60,000 a year to cover the annual payments for cars. “It seems like we’re asking for an arm and a leg,” he said.
But Scudder said he would much rather test the vehicles’ lifespan than overlap an old payment with a new purchase. The payments of the most recent set of car purchases should be completed by next year.
“Right now, it’s just more of a budget concern to run them a little bit longer to find that balance,” Scudder said.
In the meantime, Scudder said Buena Vista will likely increase the department’s maintenance fund to improve what it already has. The department will also use grant funds for computer tablets and mounts in eight of the current vehicles.
Slagle said he wants to add four vehicles to the department’s fleet to cover his whole force. He said assigning each officer his own car would ultimately maximize running time.
“If [the city] were to allow me to have one car per officer, four years could work,” Slagle said. “If it were to work out with mileage, even five years would work.”