After showing signs of wear and tear at 150,000 miles, the county’s maintenance garage pulled a Macon County Sheriff’s Department patrol car offline and instead of keeping it for parts, maintenance director Larry Conley decided to rebuild it.
“I had the idea a couple of years ago and thought that it could save the county money to rebuild some of the patrol cars rather than buy new ones,” said Conley. “This year, there was enough money in the budget to try it and now that we have done the first one, we know just how much money it can save.”
Conley and his staff completely stripped down one of the 2009 silver patrol vehicles and rebuilt it from the frame up.
“It has an all new drive train and all new suspension,” Conley said. “We stripped it down as bare as we could, inside and out, and replaced any of the wear and tear items like the transmission and brakes. It has an entirely new brake system and we upgraded the lights to a new LED system, which is what the new cars have.”
In all, the rebuild cost the garage $12,000, $3,000 of which was needed to replace damaged door panels. To do similar rebuilds on patrol cars in the MCSO fleet that need cosmetic repairs, the county is looking at $8,000 to $10,000.
“We can rebuild two of the 2009 silver patrol cars for what it cost the county to buy one car brand new,” said Conley. “Hopefully, if the county manager finds it in his budget, we can rebuild two more patrol cars in the coming year.”
New patrol cars cost the county about $23,000 to drive off the lot, and then the county invests another $15,000 to install the needed cages, lights, and window bars required before the cars are ready for the road. According to Conley, that is where a lot of the cost savings comes into play because the existing patrol cars are already outfitted with the bars and cages.
Macon County Sheriff Robert Holland said that the program is one option to consider when improving the county’s fleet, but is skeptical of its benefits.
“I have an obligation to spend the tax dollars I am responsible for in my budget wisely,” said Sheriff Holland. “With a large number of our agencies vehicles exceeding 150,000 miles, I need to carefully consider our options and decide what is best for the community and the agency. We cannot go back to the days of seeing patrol cars on the back of a tow truck and unable to continue responding to a need for help. Reliability is a must. When someone calls 911 and has an emergency it should never be acceptable business to have officers breaking down on the way to the call. Our county leaders need to be sure we are putting officers in the safest of vehicles as well. I am a cop … and not a mechanic. I am depending on those who are experts in that field to help me make the final decision as to if refurbishing vehicles is worth it. The only way we will know is to try. I honestly don’t have a lot of confidence in refurbishing old cars and I am not confident in the cost savings. Only time will tell. Meanwhile our officers will drive nearly 500,000 miles over the next year patrolling our community and answering calls.”
With the three-year, 100,000 mile warranty that came with the parts used in the rebuild, Conley said that the newly rebuilt car will easily last another 100,000 miles on the road. Typically, patrol cars put 30,000 miles a year on a car, giving the car another three years of use for the county.
There are about a dozen 2009 silver cars in the MCSO’s fleet that Conley said could potentially be rebuilt over the years to save the county money.
“We wanted to see how this process could save the county money and so far it looks like it has done just that,” said County Manager Derek Roland. “We plan to look at the program in the future as a way to improve our county fleet. By upgrading patrol cars through rebuilds where we can and looking at purchasing new vehicles on a rotating basis, we want to make sure that we enable our sheriff’s department to utilize the best tools possible to do their job of ensuring public safety.”