Savings projected from Big Island police fleet
The chief complains the advisory report overlooks many costs
HILO » An advisory panel found Hawaii County would save $169,485 if Big Island police were to switch from unmarked subsidized personal vehicles to a fleet of county-owned marked patrol cars.
The county currently pays each officer up to $587 per month to drive his or her own car.
According to the county's Police Fleet Implementation Working Group's draft report, buying 293 specially equipped patrol cars would cost $111 more per year.
But the county would save $2,658 a year on each of the 76 non-patrol cars through fleet ownership, the report said.
Police Chief Lawrence Mahuna complained in a letter that the panel ignored costs associated with fleet ownership, overstated how long the vehicles would last and overlooked the need for a reserve fleet.
"I must reiterate that without the cost of maintenance facilities and auxiliary employees, one cannot give a true annual savings, which the committee has determined would be $169,485 per year, and this would be with a five-year life span of the vehicle," Mahuna wrote in the letter, dated Monday.
"What is more important is that before the vehicles are phased in, the maintenance facilities and fleet coordinator, mechanics, and people that would detail the police vehicles should be completed and employees hired."
Mahuna also said that switching to a patrol car fleet would remove an incentive to apply to the department, and hurt recruitment efforts.
Big Island police officers are currently responsible for buying their own patrol vehicles, maintaining it and insuring it for comprehensive and collision coverage.
The county owns just 37 of 376 vehicles used by the police department, and pays for liability insurance, one gallon of fuel for every 10 miles of driving on duty and a quart of motor oil for every 500 miles driven.
Clifford Kopp, a member of the panel, said it's "obvious" the police chief opposes switching to a county-owned fleet of patrol cars.
The panel's report also recommends the county switch to a fleet gradually over a five-year period, buying 50 vehicles at a time.
The group will fine-tune its recommendation before submitting a final report to the County Council by a Jan. 2 deadline, said Dwayne Miyashiro, the panel's chairman.