News 5 Investigates

Feb 11, 2014 9:27 PM by Andy Koen

News 5 Guardians: New squad cars bought in Denver

COLORADO SPRINGS - The El Paso County Sheriff's Office is growing thanks to new money flowing into county coffers from the Ballot Issue 1A sales tax increase. The sheriff recently created 131 new positions (civilian and sworn) and unfroze another 27 jobs that previously went unfilled due to budget cuts.

"I think by mid-summer the public is really going to see an impact with response and the number of cars out patrolling the streets," said Sheriff Terry Maketa.

Since those new deputies all need equipment, the News 5 Guardians dug through county purchase orders to see where the dollars went.

In 2013, the county spent $1.51 million at one dealership: John Elway Chevrolet in Denver. The Board of County Commissioners didn't put out a public Request for Proposal (RFP) to buy the squad cars.

Instead, they purchased the 47 Impalas, 14 Tahoes and a Silverado pickup for the sheriff's department as well as an Equinox for the Environmental Services Department using the state-wide contracting system known as the Colorado Price Agreement.

It's a bit like Groupon for government purchases. Winning vendors agree to sell to local governments at the same price they sell to the state.

"All governments, county government, city, local, and the state all have the opportunity to piggy back on these agreements," explained El Paso County Contracts and Procurement Manager Eileen Gonzales.

She says the deals are hard to beat. "For the most part we've done this in the past so we know those state contracts are the best route to go."

Still, why not give the local guys a shot? Sheriff Maketa says they occasionally will put out an RFP for local bids.

"Every time, about every third or fourth year, we start going out to put feelers out at a local level;  it just can't compete with it."

At Daniels Long Chevrolet, Fleet Manager Mitch Maltry says they are not upset by the county's purchases. They too submit bids through the state system.

In 2014, Daniels was awarded contracts for five categories of vehicles.

"Specifically for 2014 have the full-sized sedan which is the Impala, fleet Impala, not the police Impala," Maltry said.

They also hold contracts for the station wagon/full-size crossover FWD, the station wagon/ full- size crossover AWD, 1 ton diesel cargo vans and 12 passenger vans.

That means a fair number of vehicles are sold here in Colorado Springs to government clients in Denver and other parts of the state.

Even though the margins are narrow, Maltry says he will still try to match state prices locally, if there's a need.

"If there is a model that I didn't win, but they still need to make a purchase, in most cases, a lot of cases, I can still get down to that price or very, very close to it."

Another reason the sheriff opted to use the state program was efficiency. The big automakers have fixed windows for fleet purchases.

"If we get our order in let's say January, we're in the front of the line, that means we'll take delivery of our vehicles probably by June," Maketa said. "Otherwise if we wait until the last couple weeks, we're not going to take delivery until August or September."

Those base cars still need to be equipped with light bars, sirens and radios. Taking time to put out a local RFP could have slowed down the final delivery date, an unappealing option considering number of new deputies who were graduating from overlapping training academies in the latter months of the year.

Once the vehicles hit the road, there are always maintenance costs to be considered. It's a line of business that Maltry is happy to take.

"El Paso County are great friends of ours," he said. "I see them back there all the time."

In fact, the county spent at least $10,570 with Daniels in 2013. The sheriff also bought four vans and two pick up trucks for a total $162,000 from Mike Shaw Buick and GMC in Colorado Springs.

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