Photo courtesy of Ventura County General Services Agency

Photo courtesy of Ventura County General Services Agency

Ventura County, Calif., received a loan of $3.8 million for the purchase of 111 law enforcement vehicles, reported the Ventura County Star. Meanwhile, the county is determining how to replenish its replacement fund.

David Sasek, director of the General Service Agency (GSA) in Ventura County, spoke to Government Fleet and cited several reasons the county sought the loan, including the Sheriff's Department's adoption of the Chevrolet Tahoe.

"When they stopped building [Ford] Crown Victorias, our Sheriff's Department shifted to Chevy Tahoes," Sasek said. "The cost of purchasing enough and fitting those is more expensive than the Crown Vics."

The fleet replacement fund balance stood at $1.8 million in May, compared to $7.5 million in the 2008-09 fiscal year, according to the Ventura County Star.

Inflation, a push toward electric and hybrid vehicles in addition to the police SUVs, and a growing fleet factored into the fund's balance, according to Sasek. 

"The [Board of Supervisors] has a policy of purchasing more hybrid and electric vehicles, replacing traditional gas vehicles," Sasek said. "Over the last few years, actually going back eight years, our fleet has grown by 91 vehicles without an infusion of cash, so we're kind of behind the eight-ball when we buy new vehicles."

An internal policy to recoup a part of a vehicles' value on resale also saw mixed results and impacted the fund.

The board is currently in the discovery phase of replenishing the replacement fund, said Sasek. To ensure the fund is sustainable, factors such as inflation have to be taken into account.

"If you buy a $20,000 vehicle today and you replace it eight years from now, it's going to cost more than $20,000 to replace," he said.

Part of determining how to replenish the fund is ascertaining procurement costs versus maintenance costs, since they comprise separate budgets, the director said. Despite procurement costs for hybrid and electric vehicles being higher up front, the total cost of ownership, including operation and maintenance, is lower.

"The net effect on the county is that it's actually cheaper for us to operate those vehicles," Sasek said.

The typical lifecycle for law enforcement pursuit and patrol vehicles is three years before replacement. The lifecycle for heavy-duty equipment and light-duty vehicles is 12 to 15 years and eight years, respectively.

"We're probably not unique in some of these challenges with regard to capital expenses for vehicles, but we're trying to be proactive in attacking it," said Sasek.