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TREASURE ISLAND – Treasure Island police will be on the lookout for much-needed improvements to its patrol fleet if city commissioners approve the purchase of all-drive SUVs at their next meeting.

During a work session Oct. 2, Police Lt. Richard Nestor explained the city’s 2019 budget includes funding for the purchase of one replacement police vehicle and one additional patrol vehicle.

Armand Boudreau, police chief and public safety director, reported one of the new vehicles will replace a 2009 Chevrolet Impala that served as the police chief’s vehicle. This vehicle was sold at auction in February for $2,000 due to a second major transmission failure and cost prohibitive repairs.

“The additional patrol vehicle is necessary to maintain operational effectiveness and improve the deployment options for uniformed officers,” he said. “On numerous occasions during the past year, two of the five vehicles were out of service due to routine maintenance or repairs. The vehicle shortage limits the resource options available to deploy a full staff in the field.”

Fully staffed and normal patrol operations are designed to deploy up to four to five officers per shift depending on the time of year. When the patrol fleet is diminished, the result is a 25 percent to 40 percent reduction in available patrol units. Officers are forced to ride together as one unit instead of two independent units, Boudreau explained.

Nestor told commissioners that the city’s old fleet of sedans is also limited as to where they can be used to respond to emergency situations. When patrolling in his sedan, he explained, he cannot ride onto the beach in an emergency, such as to look for a lost child.

“There’s nothing more frustrating then when you can’t go past a certain boundary. When adding to the fleet – if we have all-drive SUV’s and we have calls on the beach – there are no limitations where we can go,” he added.

Alan Jay Ford of Sebring was selected as the authorized dealer to purchase two 2019 Ford Interceptor All-Wheel Drive SUVs vehicles through the Florida Sheriff’s Association bid for $66,053. Extra equipment such as lights, mobile computer terminals and prisoner cages cost an additional $24,807. The total cost to purchase two 2019 Ford Police Interceptor AWD SUVs with necessary emergency and ancillary equipment is $90,860.

Commissioner Saleen Partridge asked City Manager Garry Brumback to furnish statistics on how many police vehicles a city the size of Treasure Island generally has in its fleet.

Commissioner Deborah Toth said the city needs to have an additional vehicle at the ready in case a patrol car is down for maintenance.

Nestor added the extra patrol car can also come in handy to ferry officers during major incidents, so they do not have to offer to utilize their own vehicles.

Mayor Larry Lunn asked whether the new police vehicles can display a flag wrap, similar to one that adorns the city’s pickup truck. He explained the flag decal “adds a lot to the visual image of the police vehicle and is very attractive.”

If approved at the Oct. 16 meeting, the Police Department fleet will consist of six patrol units, a police chief vehicle, detective car, parking enforcement vehicle and lieutenants’ car.

City commissioners also tentatively endorsed approval of outsourcing the Police Department’s Communications Division to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, as part of an agreement that has been in place for the last five years.

According to the police chief the one-year contract renewal amounts to $55,825, which reflects a 4.21 percent increase from the previous year.

Boudreau told commissioners “staff has been very satisfied with the quality of service and available resources. By using the contracted services, Treasure Island Police officers have access to data and information from surrounding communities, which ultimately enhances the quality of service to our residents.”

He explained officers can see what is occurring in surrounding communities and utilize mobile data that has become a unique tool.

At the Oct. 16 meeting commissioners could also vote to replace the fire department’s 17-year-old rescue vehicle, which encountered transport issues during Hurricane Irma evacuation, with a transport capable 4 by 4 unit. The cost of a new rescue is $183,500, which is less than the $200,000 budgeted amount. The city will be able to get a $6,500 trade-in allowance for its existing rescue vehicle.

Boudreau, who has recently been serving as acting fire chief, told commissioners the new rescue vehicle will allow the department to transport evacuees, expediting the process and allowing better tracking of those evacuated.

The vehicle will also allow rapid transport in extreme trauma or cardiac cases, when Sunstar has an excessive response time. It also will provide protection from inclement weather or excessive heat or cold, ultimately improving the level of service and safety the city provides.