Clayton, Henry counties to spend $3.5 million on new police cruisers

Henry County will spend $2.4 million to update its police vehicle fleet, including replacing aging Ford Crown Victoria models.  STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION
Caption
Henry County will spend $2.4 million to update its police vehicle fleet, including replacing aging Ford Crown Victoria models. STEVE SCHAEFER FOR THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Clayton and Henry counties will spend more than $3 million combined to update their police fleets with new vehicles.

The Henry County Commission on Tuesday approved spending $2.4 million on 50 new Ford Explorer pursuit SUVs while the Clayton County Commission decided the same day to shell out a little more than $700,000 for 14 Dodge Chargers and eight Dodge Durangos.

Leaders in both counties said time is of the essence because of a global supply shortage of chips and other tech used in today’s cars — both for civilians and law enforcement.

Delivery dates for pursuit vehicles can take six-to-nine months or longer, fleet leaders for both counties said. If the counties had waited longer to file orders, delivery could have been pushed into 2023.

“We don’t expect to have them on the road until June 2022,” Henry County Financial Services Director David Smith told the board of the 50 Henry vehicles, which will cost roughly $49,000 a piece. “That’s if we act today.”

The vehicle shortage is being felt across metro Atlanta, with some jurisdictions trying to piggyback on orders from departments in neighboring states in a bid to get ahead in the line.

Some police departments, such as Clayton’s, are already assigning two officers to a car in some cases, while Henry has 34 or so Ford Crown Victoria models that have been in use since 1999.

“In some instances we have had to double up based upon maintenance issues where we are not able to get the parts in order to get cars back in service,” Clayton Chief Operating Officer Detrick Stanford said.

Henry fleet leaders said even some of the county’s newer law enforcement cars, namely the Dodge Charger, are maintenance nightmares. The cars have issues with brakes, transmissions and engines, Henry Police Chief Mark Amerman said.

Henry commissioners Vivian Thomas and Dee Clemmons said they understand the impact of the chip shortage, but said local vendors should have been considered in the purchases. Henry is buying the pursuit vehicles from a dealership in Smyrna (Clayton is buying its cars from Woody Folsom of Vidalia).

“I want to challenge the purchasing department and our county manager to purposely look for opportunities that will involve our small businesses in Henry County,” Thomas said.

County Manager Cheri Hobson-Matthews said Henry has opened the bidding process locally, but that the state had already found the best prices, which is what led to the Smyrna dealership.

“We are competing with every jurisdiction to try to get vehicles,” she said.