DURHAM, NC – Durham officials are preparing to buy 79 new police cars, and say they’ll take steps to make sure the new vehicles don’t end up parked in a city lot because workers can’t equip them fast enough, according to the Herald-Sun newspaper. Officials have already warned the dealers who stand to get the city’s business that they’ll have to phase the delivery of the new cruisers. They also may hire contractors to help the Department of Fleet Maintenance’s staff install radios and other equipment.

Last week, the Durham City Council reviewed two contracts worth a combined $1.6 million. The money will buy 46 Ford Crown Victorias for patrol duty and 33 Chevrolet Impalas suitable for administrators and detectives. The city intends to buy the cars from University Ford in Durham and Terry Labonte Chevrolet in Greensboro, two of the six firms that bid on the contracts. The council is set to approve the contracts on Dec. 4.

Officials put the contracts out for bids as part of the city’s new fleet-replacement program, which the council approved as part of Durham’s fiscal 2006-07 budget. They instituted the program at the advice of consultants who said almost half the city’s vehicle fleet was overage and overdue for replacement.