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City buys 19 police cars, CNG trucks
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Covington is adding more than two dozen vehicles to its fleet, including 19 police cars, to finish its take-home car program and five gasoline and compressed natural gas (CNG) bi-fuel trucks to take advantage of the CNG fueling station the city is building.

The Covington City Council unanimously approved both purchases at Monday’s council meeting.

CNG vehicles

Covington is purchasing five new Dodge Ram bi-fuel pickup trucks for $35,250 apiece, discounted from the vehicles’ $53,400 suggested retail price because the trucks are part of a sale that fell through for another city.

The city budgeted $500,000 for CNG vehicles this year, and the $176,250 purchase will come out of that amount.

Covington Financial Coordinator Randy Conner said the bi-fuel vehicles will work well for the city, because the city can use them as gasoline vehicles in the short term, and then use the CNG fuel-capability once the city’s CNG fueling station is complete. Conner said that project is ahead of its April 1, 2014, scheduled completion date.

The trucks were originally earmarked to be purchased by the city of Memphis, Miss., but that city’s planned CNG fueling facility has had some delays, and the city canceled the purchase. The Memphis-area dealership wanted to sell the trucks at a discount.

The sale is being handled by Ginn Motor Co., which will also handle maintenance for the city, Conner said.

Conner said in an email he identified four trucks in the city’s fleet that are more than 13 years old and should be replaced.

He said those four vehicles use approximately 1,500 gallons of fuel per year, and the bi-fuel CNG trucks should be able to pay for themselves in fuel cost savings over the lives of the vehicles, since CNG is cheaper than gasoline and diesel fuel on an equivalent mileage basis.

Conner said Monday the city is looking at vehicles with which the fuel savings will cover the purchase costs over the course of five years.

Mayor Ronnie Johnston said Monday two of the trucks being replaced were used by the police department, one by the engineering department and one by the water and sewer department.

Police cars

The city also is purchasing 19 Dodge Chargers from Ginn Chrysler Jeep Dodge for $456,228, plus an additional $358,798 to add computer equipment and other equipment to the cars.

Originally, the city had hoped to purchase bi-fuel, gasoline and CNG vehicles for the police department too, but the model the city was looking at was discontinued this year. The city is going with traditional gasoline-powered cars for now.

Officially called the Assigned Officer program, the police car program assigns a separate vehicle to each police officer, Police Chief Stacey Cotton said previously. While the initial vehicle costs are higher, the goal of the program is to improve vehicle longevity, both by giving cars time to rest, so they’re not running constantly, and by holding officers accountable for the condition of their cars, he said previously. Officers get to drive cars to and from work, but can’t drive them for personal use.

Cotton previously said cars would get worn out after 70,000 miles, around two years, but under this program, cars and other vehicles are expected to last six to seven years.

The council budgeted additional money this year to complete the program.