Orange County is being asked to spend an additional $835,000 on 42 new law enforcement vehicles, less than six months after the financially strapped county bought a fleet of 35 cruisers for the Sheriff’s Department.
Buying the cars now will save the county money in repairs and because the price of law enforcement vehicles is expected to go up later this year, said Barry Adams of the Transportation Division of the General Services Agency, which oversees maintaining the county’s vehicles.
Critics immediately said the move was another sign that the county is spending without regard to fiscal woes following the loss of $1.7 billion in its investment portfolio and subsequent bankruptcy filing.
“That’s an interesting rationale: ‘We’re spending money to save money,’ ” said citizen activist Bruce Whitaker of the Committees of Correspondence, which has complained in the past about what it sees as wasteful government spending. “We see no belt-tightening over at the county. It’s business as usual.”
Sheriff Brad Gates spent more than $573,000 on 35 new cruisers in February, prompting criticism that the new cars were purchased at the same time the county was laying off employees and slashing budgets.
Gates and a spokesman for the department did not return phone calls Thursday.
The Board of Supervisors will decide Tuesday whether to spend $835,671 on 42 new cruisers and unmarked cars. Most would be used by Gates’ department to replace old and unsafe vehicles, Adams said. The department has 155 cruisers and additional undercover vehicles, he said.
It was not immediately clear how much would be paid toward the new cars by cities served by the Sheriff’s Department, Adams said. Supervisors Chairman Gaddi H. Vasquez said he believes contract cities may cover more than 50% of the cost.
“One should never underestimate the support resources we need to provide our officers,” said Vasquez, a former police officer.
He said police work is punishing wear and tear on the vehicles, which sometimes must run 24 hours a day.
Orange County generally replaces its law-enforcement vehicles when the mileage hits around 80,000, although some cars are being pushed beyond that because of the bankruptcy, Adams said.
The Los Angeles Police Department waits until its cars hit 100,000 miles or more before replacing them.