Muscogee County Sheriff's Office uses stimulus funds to convert cars to propane hybrids

The Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office will use stimulus funds to convert 20 more cars to propane-gasoline hybrids.

“We are very exited about this,” said Sheriff Lt. Gifford Anthony, budget officer and commander of the mobile command post. “It couldn’t have come at a better time.”

The sheriff’s office already had budgeted five vehicles for conversion in its fiscal year 2011 capital spending. Under a grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, James Madison University/Virginia Clean Cities Coalition asked the sheriff’s office to take part in a four-year program after a limousine company couldn’t fulfill a position for the $28,500 grant. The grant, approved by Columbus Council on Tuesday, could be worth up to $125,000 for the services it provides.

“We are getting over $100,000 worth of conversion kits,” Sheriff John T. Darr said Wednesday. “We have to do very little for the grant.”

Anthony said the grant is a four-year commitment, requiring the use of propane in the 20 vehicles 85 percent of the time. Propane-powered vehicles improve air quality, require less maintenance and the fuel is cheaper than gasoline.

The sheriff’s office plans to start converting some vehicles this summer and have all 25 of them completed by Dec. 1.

At a cost of $6,000 each, Force 911 of Pendergrass, Ga., will convert the vehicles to use propane-gasoline, and Blossman Gas of Ocean Springs, Miss., will supply the propane for the vehicles.

James Madison is the administrator of the grant, requiring the sheriff’s office to file reports on how the propane vehicles are operating.

Officials are busy this week identifying marked and unmarked cars in the sheriff’s office fleet for conversion. Darr said Wednesday some of the hybrid vehicles will be used for patrol, administration and to transport inmates out of town. Deputies frequently are required to transport inmates to mental hospitals for treatment.

The hybrid vehicle will use gasoline to start up and quickly switch to propane. When the propane runs out, it automatically switches back to gasoline.

Deputies who drive a hybrid vehicle will be trained on the proper operation, and mechanics will get additional training.

With the grant, Anthony said the city probably will have to increase the size of the propane storage tank that will be placed at the city fueling station.


- Ben Wright


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