One police car had a water pump go out. One had a fuel pump go out. Another one had a problem with the front-end bearing.
These unexpected issues happened in a short period of time with Dodge Chargers used by Brownstown Police Department.
Chief Tom Hanner recently brought the issue up with the town council. He suggested trading in all six Chargers the department uses and leasing six Ford Explorers.
The Chargers are models 2010 to 2013 and each have under 50,000 miles, but most of them have had mechanical issues.
“The oldest car we have, which has been the best one, it was the first Charger we got,” Hanner said. “It’s starting to show a lot of fender rust now. I don’t know if they changed something at some point, but all of the newer body styles are the ones we’re having trouble with.”
Clerk-Treasurer David Willey said the town has had a rotation of buying a new police car each year, but leasing them won’t be much difference in cost.
Hanner received an email from a Ford dealership in Bloomington that put the five-year lease of the six vehicles, with trade-in value included, at about $33,000 per year. Since the cars are being leased, the dealer would take care of any issues that come up, Willey said.
Hanner said he saw several advantages with the Fords, including providing more space for officers to store their equipment.
“Another advantage is when they are in idle mode, they are set up to where they use less fuel,” he said. “Plus, they are all-wheel drive, so it really helps.”
Council member Bill Sweeney asked if a decision had to be made during the Jan. 19 meeting, and Hanner said it’s best to act now because other departments will be buying new cars.
“We might as well go ahead and move forward with this. We’ve got cars that aren’t running,” council President John Nolting said.
Council members Bethany Brewster and Matt Smith agreed, considering there aren’t any cons to the lease.
The department has eight police cars. It will be keeping the Explorer that Hanner uses and the Chevrolet Tahoe that school resource officer Tom Wright drives.
Hanner said the six Chargers will have to be stripped of lights and other equipment. He received quotes from three businesses and an individual to set up the new Explorers.
Brad Barker, an officer with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, came in with the lowest quote at $4,056.77 per car. Willey said the town has $48,000 set aside in the budget to use for repair, maintenance and operating supplies.
The council gave unanimous approval for Barker to do the work. Hanner said he hopes to be able to salvage some of the lights and equipment to use on the new vehicles.
“I think Brad does an excellent job,” Hanner said. “Very neat and detailed, and it’s close if we have an issue.”