Sheriff’s Department pulls plug on electric vehicles

Thu, 06/06/2024 - 11:30am

Two lengthy stays in the repair shop have led the county sheriff’s department to re-think using hybrid vehicles. On June 4, commissioners approved a plan to begin re-stocking the department’s vehicle fleet with gas-powered models instead of hybrids. Commissioners approved a sheriff’s department request to cancel two ordered Ford Police Hybrid Intercept Utility vehicles and seek gas-powered replacements. Chief Deputy Rand Maker told commissioners the department has contacted Ford Motor Co. about the automaker re-purchasing their two problematic vehicles.

Maker recounted two incidents which demonstrated the department’s frustration. He told commissioners one vehicle has been in the repair shop since January. A second has been in the shop for the past month.

“We’ve reached a point where we are no longer interested in purchasing them,” Maker said. One vehicle had issues from the moment it was delivered. In January, it was sent to the shop and technicians failed to find the problem. “Mechanics tore it apart and put it back together, and it still did the same thing. We’re at the point where we are reluctant to continue purchasing hybrids due to dependability and reliability issues,” Maker said.

Commissioners agreed and approved canceling a pending order for two Ford SUV hybrids. The board also approved purchasing two gas-powered vehicles to replace the canceled order. It won’t take long to receive replacement vehicles as Maker had two gas-powered models reserved on a car dealership’s lot. Commissioners approved purchasing a 2024 Ford Police Interceptor Utility gas-powered utility vehicle for $45,060, and a Ford F-150 gas-powered truck for $42,297. Maker said the truck would replace a truck currently used in the detective division. “The truck is being used more often now, especially, with the marijuana arrests for transporting objects. It also gives (detectives) reliable transportation.” 

The sheriff’s department is considering requesting Ford buy back two hybrids in the repair shop. Maker told commissioners, department officials have communicated the vehicles’ problems to Ford’s car department via email without finding a resolution. “We’ve shared the vehicles’ maintenance history. There are a number of theories, but no clear explanation. So, we will ask Ford to repurchase them.”

If Ford agrees, the sheriff’s department will begin searching for two gas-powered replacements, said Maker.

In other action, commissioners approved purchasing eight law enforcement body-worn cameras. Maker explained the department’s current equipment was 10 years old and at least two generations behind in technology. Nine of the current 17 cameras were in good working condition, but the others lacked enough battery charge capacity to ensure reliable operation. “There are a growing number of issues about reliability. The batteries won’t hold their charge, and we are past our point of panic,” Maker said. “My fear is at the point where we will have an event, and the body cams won’t work. Reports document, but videos really tell the story.”

The $34,552 purchase includes eight cameras and 16 batteries.

Commissioners approved two full-time hirings and one summer intern. Cassandra Kibler of Waldoboro is a new emergency communications officer. Brianna Edwards is the district attorney’s office’s new legal secretary. Brianna Prentiss was hired as a summer intern. The high school student will spend 10 weeks receiving “intern pay” working with Lincoln County Regional Planning Office and the communications department, and in other roles within county government, according to County Administrator Carrie Kipfer. 

Commissioners accepted Lana Ferry’s resignation as a reserve emergency communications officer. The county will pay less for heating oil this winter. Commissioners approved a contract with  M.W. Sewall of Bath to purchase 18,000 gallons at $3.14 per gallon. Last year, the county paid $3.44 per gallon, Kipfer said.

Commissioners held executive sessions on legal and personnel issues, before adjourning the meeting. Commissioners meet next at 9 a.m. Tuesday, June 16 in the courthouse.