This year, the budget review for Lincoln aldermen took place in
two night meetings held on March 17th and 30th.
At the first meeting, city department heads spoke about their
budgets for the coming year. There were not a lot of surprises in
the budget. There is always need to replace aging equipment, and
department heads spoke about what they needed and what it would mean
for the budget.
Among those to talk on this topic were Lincoln Police Chief Paul
Adams, and Deputy Chief Matt Vlahovich. Adams started the
conversation, talking about the need to be a little more aggressive
in the city's adopted plan to replace squad cars. He offered a
solution that would still equal a turnover of two vehicles every
year, but he asked to do it in three-year terms.
The city had originally adopted a plan to replace two squads each
year. With 24 cars in the department, this meant that all vehicles
would eventually cycle out every 12 years. However, serious money
issues over the past few years, since 2008, has prevented the city
from completely following through with that plan. Therefore, the
police department now has vehicles that are exceeding 12 years old,
the oldest one being a 2002, which is now 14 years old.
Adams said that in considering the squads, safety is a big issue. He
said as the vehicles get older, the safety aspect decreases. He said
there were several vehicles on the force with over 100,000 miles and
are eating up the annual budget in maintenance.
He said the city has three 2004 Crown Victoria’s with over 100,000
miles, one 2002 that is over 100,000, several 2005 models and one
2006 model that is well over 100,000 miles.
Chief Adams also pointed out that some of these vehicles were
purchased before the “fleet days.” He explained that in those days,
one car was on the road 24-hours a day, and the thing that changed
was the officer behind the wheel. Over time the city has worked into
a position where that the officers have individual cars, and the
vehicles are only on the road during the normal shift of the
Because the department has this larger number of older, well-used
vehicles, the chief was asking to replace six vehicles in the next
fiscal year. Adams said he would ask that the city does a lease of
six cars. He said that with the fleet leasing, it should lower the
payments on the whole, perhaps even enough to add a seventh vehicle
to the mix.
Deputy Chief Vlahovich spoke about the deals that he has found. He
began noting that last year the city had purchased two Dodge
Durangos. With the purchase of the vehicles and the equipment cost
for gearing them up for police work, the city spent a total of
Vlahovich said he had received a flyer from an out of state Dodge
dealership with special offers for Ram trucks and Dodge Durangos.
Vlahovich said that the department would like to purchase four
Durangos and two trucks. He noted that technology and design for the
pick-up trucks have come a long way, and trucks are nearly as
efficient to operate as a car.
Vlahovich said the department’s request for the Durango’s and trucks
would equal a total investment of $195,757, which if spread over a
three-year lease would be $65,252 per year. He noted this would be a
$14,000 decrease over what was spent last year on two Durango’s.
Vlahovich said that he had also searched out a better price for the
outfitting of each vehicle, which would involve equipping the
vehicles for police work. He said that to equip all seven vehicles
would cost an additional $25,694, but that the price per vehicle for
the equipment was about half the cost of what was spent last year.
He told the council that in looking into this, he took the
information from the out of state Dodge Dealer to the Lincoln
Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Ram in Lincoln, and that dealership said it
would match the deal on the vehicle lease. He said the interest rate
quoted on the vehicles was 5.14 percent, but Vlahovich said he could
do better, and thought the city could get a lease with an interest
rate around 2 to 2.5 percent. He added that at the end of the lease
agreement, the vehicles could then be purchased with one dollar per
He said that a lot of the equipment that is in the trade-in vehicles
could be swapped into the new squads, so that too would save money.
Todd Mourning asked if these were stock vehicles that anyone could
purchase. Vlahovich said, no. They are special police service
vehicles that come with spots (lights), special wiring, and some of
the other lighting specific to police vehicles.
Mayor Marty Neitzel asked about two-door or four-door. Vlahovich
said all vehicles would be a four-door. Neitzel also asked about
four-wheel-drive. Vlahovich said, all would be four-wheel-drive. He
noted that if an officer needs that option just one time, it has
paid for itself.
[to top of second column]
Steve Parrott asked about the maintenance cost of the trucks.
Vlahovich said the department has one truck now with 30,000 miles on it, and
nothing has had to be done to it to date.
Parrott and Neitzel also wondered about mileage on trucks versus cars. Vlahovich
said that mileage is greatly improved on the trucks of today, but, yes, a car
would get better mileage.
Mourning asked if the vehicles would come with factory warranties, and Vlahovich
said they would.
Adams commented on the value of the higher-profile vehicles saying that it put
the vehicle above most water lines and snow lines compared to a car.
Michelle Bauer asked if these would be marked police vehicles?
Adams and Vlahovich said that they would.
Jonie Tibbs stated that she didn’t think the city could afford to send its
police officers out in older, unreliable vehicles. She supported making this
trade and added that there should be a fund set up within the city to allow
continual upgrading of vehicles, not just for the police, but also for the fire
department and street department.
Bauer noted that the city had decided to create such a fund last year.
Johnson said they had, but it had not officially been started yet. However, he
said that is going to be a concrete plan starting in 2016-17.
Parrott asked about the thought or logic behind adding two trucks versus all
Vlahovich said that the department would like to have one truck per shift, and
adding two trucks to the one already owned would accomplish this. In addition,
he said that the deal at hand offers the trucks at about $2,000 less than the
Tracy Welch asked if this lease expenditure was in the budget before the
council, and if so, where?
Johnson said it was not currently in the budget draft. He noted that he had
given Chief Adams “gloom and doom” about doing this, but in reality, he thought
it could be done. He said the work yet to be done, is to achieve the best
interest rate possible on the lease. He said the State Bank of Lincoln had been
contacted, and they would offer to finance at a 2.75 percent interest rate.
Johnson said there were other options out there as well, so he and the chief
needed to do some more research.
Hoefle supported the plan to do three-year terms and trade off more vehicles at
one time. He said he saw this as the way to go.
Vlahovich also noted that the department now has a program wherein one officer
is assigned one car, and he or she is the only one who drives the vehicle.
Welch noted that the new cars would equal fuel and maintenance savings, and he
also commented that it was good that each officer has a vehicle. He said that
should promote a sense of pride and ownership that would equal taking better
care of the vehicle in general.
At the March 30th budget meeting, Johnson said that if the council wanted to
move forward with the vehicle lease plan, it could be fit into the budget. He
estimated that in the first year the expenditure for the payment and interest of
the vehicles plus the cost of equipping the vehicles for police service would
come to between $95 and $97 thousand.
He said he was still shopping for a good interest rate, but wanted to confirm
the council approves. He noted that all appeared in favor of the plan at the
last budget meeting. At the March 30th meeting, it also appeared that all the
aldermen were in favor of the plan, so Johnson said he would move forward with
making it so.
Though the vehicle leases will now be part of the budget, the council will
approve, by majority vote the final details prior to the leases being activated.