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Published: Friday, 2/29/2008

Repair costs drive Toledo to update police fleet

BY LAREN WEBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Bob Keel installs equipment on a police car at the fleet service station on Spielbusch Avenue. Bob Keel installs equipment on a police car at the fleet service station on Spielbusch Avenue.
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Some Toledo police cars patrolling the city's streets have holes in the floor. Others have odometers quickly approaching 200,000 miles.

Many require constant maintenance because of their age and high use.

But beginning as early as next week, some of the department's aging fleet will be replaced by 40 2008 Dodge Chargers.

"This is our new look," police Chief Mike Navarre said yesterday as he pointed to a shiny police car parked outside the Safety Building in downtown Toledo.

He said one car could be on patrol as early as today.

Once computers are installed in the remaining cars, the chief said they'll be ready to go.

In addition to the new body style, the Chargers are equipped with state-of-the-art emergency lights, dashboard video cameras, plastic, molded back seats, and the new countywide radio system.

With a 3.5-liter, six-cylinder engine, the Chargers are expected to get better gas mileage than the Ford Crown Victorias that make up much of the police fleet.

"In the end, we're going be more cost efficient because our repair cost will be much less [and] our fuel economy will be much [better] with the new vehicles," Chief Navarre said.

Dan Wagner, president of the Toledo Police Patrolman's Association, said replacing some of the old, dented, worn-out cars was long overdue.

"Regardless of how we [got] them, we needed to get them," he said. "You start incurring more costs to maintain them than it would [cost] to replace them."

In 2006, the department replaced about 15 vehicles. The city wasn't able to buy new cars last year because of budget constraints.

The cars are being leased from Charlie's Dodge in Maumee for about $350,000 annually for three years. After the third year, the city will buy the cars for $1 each.

The total cost to lease the cars and install equipment is more than $1.4 million, with $440,000 being paid for by federal grant money, Chief Navarre said.

The chief previously said he expected the new police cars to begin patrolling in January.

"In a perfect world, we'd go to a dealer and buy a police car and it would come fully equipped," he said. "That's not the way it happens."

The cars were ordered late last year, and their delivery was delayed. That, coupled with the time it takes to install police equipment, is what led to the delay, Chief Navarre said.

Contact Laren Weber at:

lweber@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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