Welcome aboard one more time. We have been busy once again and hopefully I can remember most of the news to present to you today. I would like to welcome back the readers of the Pulaski County Mirror from Richland. While my column will not be in the actual paper, I have been told they will place it with their online edition so the Richland area will once again be able to read the column. I hope to produce a column worthy of your time.
Our calls for service/case number count continues to climb ever upward. As of 10:10 a.m. on May 29, the count for this year stands at 4,313. The count for 2009 was 3,807 and the count for 2008 stood at 4,319, so business continues to thrive at our usual rates. Since beginning my new campaign to increase the news releases, I have sent out a bunch of them over the last ten days. So for those who have noticed the increased news count, it is only because I have been more proactive in getting the news releases completed. Business has more or less continued at our usual work pace. However, Capt. Bill Anderson has completed six death investigations so far in May and that is somewhat higher than normal.
As a parent, have you ever had the embarrassing moment when you were talking to your child and suddenly realized they were about six inches taller than you remembered, and your first question was, “When did that happen?” I find myself in the same spot today with our vehicle fleet.
Last week, Pulaski County Clerk Diana Linnenbringer came over to my office for a visit to talk about cars and asked me a number of questions. As I was answering the questions, the light bulb suddenly turned on and I had to ask myself, “When did we change?”
When I first took over the office of sheriff here in Pulaski County, we had three or four cars that were beyond the 300,000 mile mark. Many others were between 200,000 and 300,000 miles. I even had to use my personal vehicle for the first five months or so before I could come up with a company car for myself. Because we are hamstrung by the total lack of vehicle funding by Pulaski County Commission, the fight to improve the fleet has been long and continuous.
When we began to work on the fleet, our first moves were to purchase two or three cars at once and pay off bank loans over a several year period. Since I am limited in the amount I can generate from the civil fee fund for cars (mainly because I have to use it for many other items) it was hard to pay off the loans, and I hated the loss of money for the interest rates we had to pay. We tried to branch out to other methods of purchasing cars. I won a bid from Phelps County on a sealed bid they conducted and scored two really good cars for us to use. Then I was able to bid on two more from Greene County. The city of St. Robert donated several cars and suddenly we had the basis of a fleet that was in fair shape.
As a result, I was able to stop the bank loans and when the last one was paid off, I could go after cars on a one-deal-at-a-time basis and pay cash. Then in 2009, two great things happened. I found a car dealer in the Kansas City area who had our name written all over his operation, just the type of cars we were looking for, and when we bought the first one, the price and value was excellent. Also in 2009, the board of directors of the County Law Enforcement Restitution Fund (CLERF) began to assist us in a big way with their funds and I was able to stretch the dollars in our civil fee fund to cover more acquisitions.
Then one day I looked at the fleet with a critical eye and found we had grown up quite a bit. I do not mean to imply that we are driving new cars, but as soon as we can change out the last 2001 model, every one of our paid deputies will be driving a 2003 or newer model. Only one or two are over 200,000 miles and most are in the mid-150,000 range or less. When we first started in 2005, I would swear that at least every other day one of our cars went through town on the back of a wrecker. Now it is a rare day when the wrecker grabs our car and hauls it away. I greatly appreciate the change.
Many of you will ask what other factors helped in this fleet change, and that answer is two words: “Tom Cristoffer.” Tom works on the fleet daily, often seven days a week. Once I figured out what I had in him as a master mechanic and scrounger, I soon learned my lessons and I placed him totally in charge of the fleet. That means total charge; the only thing I do is find new dealerships to look at and figure out where the dollars will come from. He makes all the other decisions, including who gets what car and when. The only decision I have made of late was to assign the wrecked 2007 model to him when it is completed in the near future. My thought was if he was going to work so hard for so long on the fleet, then he deserved our newest and best when it gets done. Besides that, he is the man with the 2001 year model and we will remove him from his 2001 model car and let him drive in style.
Now that you have read this long fleet review, you should be able to understand my comment about the parent and the child. My only problem now is how I should refer to our fleet. I am going to have to retire the words “junk cars” and come up with something else. While we are not driving new cars, we are driving adequate cars. It is a welcome change.
Once again I must close out the column. Please drive with care over the Memorial Day weekend and lease keep your actions legal because we do not want you in the jail,but if you must visit the jail, the lights work just fine.