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City buying new SUVs for police officers

Lease-to-own agreement allows the city to own the vehicles after five years


by: POST PHOTO: JIM HART - This is one of the Ford sedans that have seen a long useful life, but now require more costly service than use.The Sandy City Council accepted the advice of Police Chief Kim Yamashita when she said the city should replace its entire fleet of police cars.

It has been nearly 10 years since the cars were purchased, and each one has more than 100,000 miles. But more importantly, she told the councilors, the cost of maintenance is now exceeding the cost of buying new vehicles.

This wasn’t the first notice the council had received about the need for vehicles with fewer issues. The topic was discussed and approved during budget meetings.

So it wasn’t a revelation when Yamashita asked for approval of the nearly $172,000 cost to replace about half of the fleet of police vehicles. Next year, as part of the current biennial budget, plans include replacing the other half of the fleet for a similar cost.

The lease agreement allows the city to own the vehicles after five years of lease payments.

The reasonable price was part of what convinced the council that Yamashita had struck a good deal for the vehicles. Each fully equipped Ford Interceptor pursuit-rated SUV is lease-to-own priced at $28,659. And that price is “road ready,” the police chief said.

“As part of the lease packet,” she told the council, “they require a resolution from council to show that I have the authority and support from council that there will be funding. They want their investment secured.”

City Manager Seth Atkinson explained more about the reason for the resolution.

“Even though there is a two-year budget for this (expense),” he said, “this is an extended lease agreement that goes beyond the budget cycle, and they want a resolution that (the city) will fund this in the future.”

The entire expense isn’t being borne by the city of Sandy, Yamashita told the council, because two cars are being used to patrol the streets of Estacada. In that case, that expense was added to the city’s contract with Estacada.

Replacing the current sedans with SUVs was an intentional choice made by Yamashita and her officers. She said the increased height gives more visibility and ground clearance and the all-wheel-drive feature makes the vehicles more useable in severe winter conditions.

“I think, since we are a mountain community,” she said, “it’s an appropriate vehicle for us to have.”

Some of the Clackamas County Sheriff’s deputies are now driving similar vehicles, so Sandy officers test drove those and questioned the deputies. By then, they were convinced it was a good choice.

“We’re not losing anything going from a sedan to a SUV,” Yamashita said. “We’re just going to gain.”

The new SUVs will receive what Yamashita called a “wrap,” which will protect the paint and prevent it from chipping and peeling as the paint is now doing on the sedans.

However, the best two or three sedans will be kept in reserve — for use by reserve officers or when an SUV is receiving service. Other sedans in the fleet are “so bad,” Yamashita said, that they will be “scrapped,” and maybe one will be kept for parts.

Mayor Bill King agreed with Yamashita regarding the amount of repairs and the cost.

“I have seen the expense reports for repairs, and I do agree that for what we’re paying just to keep them on the road, we can reduce our costs with this lease. I think it’s high time we did that.”

Councilor Carl Exner agreed that Yamashita had struck a good deal on the lease price for road-ready, pursuit-rated SUVs.

“I gotta say, 28 grand apiece,” he said, “that’s a pretty good deal.”

But the good deal is not only the total price, which is a saving of more than $6,000 each compared to an outright purchase. The interest rate also is low, at only 3.34 percent, the chief said.

Yamashita said she would continue allowing officers to take the vehicles home — a strategy that reduces the overall miles traveled and extends the number of years of useful life of each vehicle.

Yamashita said she expects, conservatively, 8-10 years of service from each SUV.

The council approved the lease agreement and resulting expense by a 5-0 unanimous vote.