LIHUE — The Kauai Police Department will be getting new patrol cars.
The Kauai County Council unanimously approved a budget request from Chief Darryl Perry last week to spend $178,000 a year for five years to lease new Ford Explorers.
The purchase was a non-budgeted item, and funds would come from the Leased Vehicles Account.
KPD is in its second year of a three-year vehicle replacement plan, which aims to purchase 15 police vehicles a year for three years. Each vehicle costs between $50,000 and $55,000.
The 15 replacement vehicles each year would cost approximately $825,000 to purchase outright, but with the lease payment is anticipated at $178,000 per year for five years, so the total cost would be $890,000, said Sarah Blane, county spokeswoman.
The total cost to replace the 45 vehicles is approximately $2.47 million, but that will be over a 7-year period to leverage cash flow, she said.
The department hopes to have 45 new cars by the end of the program.
“If there’s an emergency or anything that requires an officer to expedite getting there, I think we all want the vehicle to get there safely,” said Robert Gausepohl, assistant chief.
The purchase is made possible by a lease-to-own agreement, where KPD will own the cars after a period of five years, he said.
Because the money is coming from a roll-over budgeted item from Fiscal Year 2016, there will be a decrease in KPD’s 2017-18 proposed budget.
The second-year payment won’t happen until 2019.
While the lifespan of police cars varies, Gausepohl expects the cars to last at least seven years.
“Some vehicles are better built than others, and we have vehicles that are used much more than others, depending on what geographical areas they’re assigned to,” he said. “The outside stations, they put way more miles on their cars.”
The cars that are being replaced will most likely be cannibalized, meaning their parts will be put on other cars, Gausepohl said.
“We’re saving a tremendous amount of money by doing that,” he said.
About 90 percent of the cars purchased will be take-home cars, Gausepohl added.
“Take-home vehicles are designed to increase more vehicles on the street,” he said. “And if they have to respond to an emergency, they’re ready to go, on the spot. We have officers responding to incidents going to and from work or to things that are going on in their neighborhood.”
Councilman Ross Kagawa asked how KPD came up with the justifications for needing the new cars, and if there was an evaluation process as to which ones needed replacing.
“I think we’re reaching a point, budget-wise, where we no longer will be able to spend as we want like we used to. We’re coming up at hard times,” he said. “We want to do the service, but we’re not going to give you unlimited funds. We’ll give you what you need to survive, just like everybody else. I just want to make sure we’re not using more than we need.”
After the three years, KPD will re-evaluate every year and decide if more cars are needed, Gausepohl said. And if additional cars are needed, the most will be 10.
“We’re trying to be as fiscally responsible as we can be. We make sure our budget is as lean and realistic as it can,” he said “And we try to do as good of a job as we can.”
Also on Wednesday, the council unanimously approved another KPD budget request to spend $45,000 to expand the Chief’s Office by using movable privacy walls.
The need to expand is a result of the creation of the Office of Professional Standards, which includes investigators who handle internal affairs matters and accreditation.