Goodbye Crown Vic, hello Tahoe

Milaca, as part of a regular rotation of its police squad cars, will get a new vehicle a few months ahead of a scheduled replacement.

The difference will be that it will be a four-wheel drive Tahoe, as opposed to the Crown Vic models the city is using now.

Police Chief Todd Quaintance told city council members at their Feb. 21 meeting that the police package is no longer being offered on Crown Vics.

Quaintance told the council that the squad car purchased in 2007 has nearly 100,000 miles on it and that an estimate for needed repairs is $5,050.

He said a rotation of six years is in place for each squad car. The department has three squad cars, with all squads used most days because officers are assigned to specific cars.

Quaintance, in making the case for buying a Tahoe, said there are times during the winter when officers need a four-wheel drive to get around and that they have used public works and parks vehicles in the past.

A concern, he said, is using a small amber light on a pickup when there is a need to do traffic control.

City Manager Greg Lerud told council members that he and Quaintance had talked the past couple weeks about whether or not it was a good idea to put $5,000 into repairs on a vehicle scheduled to be replaced next year.

Lerud said there is about $18,000 in the police reserve fund ($5,000 is levied each year) and that the purchase of a new squad car would require the council using general fund money for the balance.

He said that if the council decided to buy a new squad, he would recommend using general fund money only if the police department was over budget at the end of the year.

Councilman Norris Johnson asked if approving a purchase now would change the time line for future replacements and Lerud answered that it wouldn’t.

He said following the replacement plan would be critical because the other squad cars are getting older and, if purchases are delayed, future purchases would “bunch up.”

The city went to the six-year rotation (one new vehicle every two years) a few years ago and when state budget cuts were made, the city reduced the amount set aside for police reserve to $5,000 and that is not adequate to keep the replacement plan on schedule, Lerud said.

He suggested raising that amount next year and in future years.

Councilman Wayne Bekius expressed concern about the appearance of having a squad car as large as a Tahoe but said he understood the need for a four-wheel drive.

A motion was passed to authorize the purchase of a Tahoe on a state bid, with the $17,000 balance of the approximate cost of $35,000 over the reserve fund of $18,000 to come from the general fund.