POULSBO — Poulsbo residents can expect soon to see new city police vehicles appearing on the streets — and in their rearview mirrors.
The Poulsbo City Council authorized on Aug. 2 borrowing $460,000 to purchase and equip nine new vehicles — eight police vehicles and a vehicle for the city’s building inspector.
The last time the city purchased a new police vehicle was in January 2016, Finance Director Debbie Booher said.
During the 2008-10 recession, one way the city saved money was to limit the purchase of new vehicles, Booher said. During that time, the number of police officers has increased. “We’re playing catch up,” she said.
“We were on a 12- to 14-year rotation [for our police vehicles],” Police Chief Dan Schoonmaker said. “The goal is to get back on an eight-year rotation.”
To accomplish the purchase, the city is using what is known as a Local Agency Financing Contract between the city and the State of Washington. When issuing tax-free general revenue bonds for smaller amounts such as this, it can be difficult to get the best interest rates, Booher said. By banding together with other agencies, everyone benefits from more favorable rates. Cities and agencies do something similar with their savings, pooling them through the state to get better interest.
These bonds will be paid off in four years, she said.
To enjoy further savings, the city is purchasing the vehicles — Ford Interceptors — through a state contractor.
Building out the police vehicles
The $460,000 includes the cost of equipping the vehicles. The average cost for a fully-equipped vehicle is $47,000 to $49,000, Booher said. However, that price can go up or down, depending on the vehicle’s intended use. For example, the price for building out a K-9 unit differs from that of a patrol car, a detective car or a basic city vehicle, she said.
The new cars will receive the usual computers, lights, sirens, and radios. However, one positive change residents can expect to see — literally — is flashing emergency lights that can be seen from the side of the car when it’s going through an intersection.
“You wouldn’t think it [with all those lights], but police cars can be hard to see from the side,” Schoonmaker said.
The city is proposing to partner with Clallam County to have the new vehicles built out. In order to get the new vehicles outfitted, the city either had to go through an open bidding process of its own or enter into an interlocal procurement agreement with another municipality that had already completed an open bid for the same services. In this case, Poulsbo chose to partner with Clallam County, which had completed an open bid for the same services.
The winning bidder, Systems for Public Safety, located in Lakewood, will be doing the build-out for Clallam County. And it appears they will equip the City of Poulsbo’s vehicles once the appropriate documents have been approved and signed.
Carbon monoxide concerns
Ford Interceptors — the police version of Ford Explorers — have been in the news recently because of concerns about carbon monoxide that has made officers ill, according to Washington State Patrol’s Facebook page.
It’s an issue that’s been going on for a while. Schoonmaker said he heard about it eight or 10 months ago.
“The question is whether the problem is a manufacturer [issue] or an after-market install issue,” he said. “To me, the issue is the safety of our officers.” His department has contacted Systems for Public Safety about hard-wiring a carbon monoxide detector in the new vehicles. He said there have been “no issues with our current cars.”
“My experience with the Ford Interceptor has been very positive,” Schoonmaker said. “Especially with the all-wheel drive model … As you well know, there is not a flat spot anywhere around here. Having AWD assures we can get around regardless of rain or sleet.”
Old vehicles to be sold or re-purposed
The fate of the eight older police vehicles being replaced is yet to be decided, Booher said. First, the old cars will have all of the police equipment stripped out of them.
“Some [of that equipment] we can re-use. Some we get credit for from the installer,” Schoonmaker said.
Once the cars have been stripped of police equipment, officials will see if any other department has a use for them.
“Public Works may use one or two of the vehicles,” Booher said.
After that, plans call for the remaining vehicles to be sold online at www.publicsurplus.com.