Harford County residents should be seeing a number of new Sheriff's Office vehicles on the road in the coming months, as the county's chief law enforcement agency replaces aging units in its fleet.
The members of the Harford County Board of Estimates recently approved spending more than half a million dollars for 19 replacement cars and SUVs.
The Sheriff's Office is already cycling 10 Chevrolet Caprice marked patrol cars into its fleet, as law enforcement agencies across the country replace aging Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors that are no longer manufactured. The Crown Vics have been the mainstay of the Sheriff's patrol fleet for many years.
"There's a lot of wear and tear on these vehicles," Edward Hopkins, spokesman for the Sheriff's Office, said Thursday.
He stated in a recent e-mail to The Aegis that the 10 Chevy Caprices cost $27,425 each.
Hopkins stressed Thursday that the vehicle purchases approved for the current fiscal year are all to replace existing vehicles which have reached the end of their service lives; the Sheriff's Office is not purchasing additional vehicles.
The Board of Estimates approved during its meeting June 18 purchases of five unmarked 2014 Ford Taurus Police Interceptors, eight 2014 Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs and six 2014 Chevy Impalas outfitted for undercover use.
Documents provided in advance of the board meeting noted the vehicles they will replace are "very high mileage and costing money in maintenance dollars."
The county will spend $135,005 with Hertrich of Milford, Del., to purchase the Ford Police Interceptors at a cost of $27,001 each; the vehicles they are replacing range from 2005 to 2008 models, and have mileages between more than 56,000 to 100,000.
The board also approved spending $241,840 with Criswell Chevrolet of Gaithersburg for the SUVs, including four 4x2 Chevy Tahoes at $27,954 each and four 4x4 special service vehicle SUVs at $32,506 each to replace seven 2005, 2006 and 2007 Ford Expeditions and a 2004 Chevy Trailblazer.
Finally, the board approved a $126,408 contract with Hertrich for the Impalas at $21,068 each, replacing vehicles, one of which is 10 years old. Documents listed eight undercover vehicles that are being removed from the fleet, but the county will only purchase six, said Marylee Gorman, recording secretary for the board.
Fleet Manager Warren Patrick told board members the county will typically "tack on" to vehicle bids by other local and state police agencies in Maryland for a better price on vehicles.
Hopkins said vehicles used by the Sheriff's Office and other county agencies are regularly replaced, based on a Harford County formula that takes mileage, maintenance and years of service into account.
"Except for the downtime between shifts, they're not really turned off," he said of police vehicles.
Hopkins said the police vehicles are often "driven hard," and their operators put them through short turns, hard braking, high speeds and more.
"There's a lot of things that these vehicles are subjected to that the typical car owner would not subject their vehicle to," he said.
More flash kits for fire radios
Board members approved spending $160,000 with Motorola of Schaumburg, Ill., on 200 software "flash" kits to upgrade portable radios for local fire and EMS companies.
The flashes will go to the Aberdeen, Abingdon and Level volunteer fire companies, the Susquehanna Hose Company and Havre de Grace Ambulance Corps and Aberdeen Proving Ground Fire & Emergency Services.
The board had approved during its May meeting a contract of more than $29,000 to purchase 37 software "flash" kits to upgrade the Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company's radios, part of an effort by Harford County emergency officials to upgrade all fire and EMS radios.
"Our goal is anybody can talk to anybody in the county," Mitch Vocke, manager of technology services for the Department of Emergency Services, told board members.
He said in May the flashes are much more affordable than purchasing new radios.
The board also approved a $546,980.20 contract with Motorola for 88 wireless radios for the Department of Emergency Services for fire and EMS workers, and the old radios would be transferred to other county agencies, including Parks and Recreation, Public Works and others.
The flash upgrades will allow firefighters and EMS workers to access the 700 megahertz radio band, and have greater "interoperability" with Baltimore County first responders' radios, Vocke explained.
He noted a number of Harford County fire companies covered Baltimore County firehouses while their personnel were battling a massive fire last month after a freight train derailed outside Baltimore.
The board went into closed session at the end of its meeting to discuss property acquisition for a bridge replacement project in the county, although board members declined to say which bridge, citing closed session protocols.
Gorman said the board unanimously approved the purchase.