Bedford County Sheriff's Department, which was given money for only three new cars in this year's budget, has proposed financing 10 cars instead of buying three outright.
The proposal was discussed Tuesday night by Bedford County Board of Commissioners' law enforcement and workhouse committee.
The sheriff's department had originally asked for five new vehicles in the 2012-2013 fiscal year which began July 1, saying that five vehicles were needed to maintain its rotation. As old vehicles wear out, they're replaced by newer models. But commissioners, facing a tight budget, only allowed three vehicles.
Now, the sheriff's department has proposed a lease agreement which would allow it to obtain 10 new vehicles this year, and pay for them over a three-year period. County finance director Robert Daniel said it would actually be cheaper than a lease for the county to borrow the money itself, using a capital outlay note, buy the 10 cars and pay back the note over three years.
Sheriff's department officials said the new cars would help the department save on its maintenance costs by replacing older vehicles which require heavy maintenance. Money received from selling the old vehicles would be applied towards the cost of buying video cameras for the new ones.
The sheriff's department is also requesting that the fees it receives for serving warrants be applied to an equipment fund. Currently, that money goes into the county general fund.
The law enforcement committee endorsed the idea and sent it on to the full county commission.
Commissioner J.D. "Bo" Wilson, who was not present Tuesday night, has in the past been sharply critical of the sheriff's department for the size of its 58-vehicle fleet.
Wilson has said that if officers did not take vehicles home with them, the department could save money. Sheriff's department officials have said in the past that vehicles taken home by an officer tend to be better cared-for than vehicles which are swapped from officer to officer at shift change, and that spreading the mileage over more vehicles, and replacing them less often, isn't that different in terms of cost from spreading the mileage over fewer vehicles and having to replace them more often.