Franklin County Sheriff Jeff Curry is in the market for more patrol vehicles.

The Franklin County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved Wednesday morning the solicitation of bids for three Dodge Chargers for the sheriff’s office. The purchase would increase the number of Chargers in use by the sheriff’s office from six to nine.

“We’ve took some time this year and looked at some other patrol packages that are out there, and I still think the Dodge is the best option,” Curry said Monday at the board’s study session.

Two of the vehicles were budgeted in the 2013 sheriff’s budget, Curry said. The sheriff added he intends to purchase the third using funds from the sheriff’s trust fund, or seized drug money.

The sheriff’s office fleet now stands at 32 vehicles, including 14 Ford Crown Victoria vehicles, a long-time choice of law enforcement, but which no longer is being manufactured. The Charger purchase would be part of the sheriff’s process of replacing the Crown Victoria cars in the fleet, he said.

“We’ll actually be trading four Crown Victorias in,” Curry said. “We’re purchasing three, but we’re working on reducing the number of our fleet a little bit right now.”

The Chargers must be equipped with police packages, including additional lighting and six-cylinder engines, Curry said, as indicated in the bids. The bid solicitations are expected to be sent to about 20 Kansas car dealerships within 70 miles of Ottawa, Curry said.

“I will not purchase vehicles outside of the state,” Curry said. “I can assure you that the only dealerships will be Kansas dealerships.”

The bid letters are expected to be sent to the dealerships within the week, and bids are due back to the county clerk’s office by 4 p.m. March 12. The bids are expected to be opened at the county board’s meeting March 13.

The life expectancy of a patrol vehicle is about four to five years, or about 100,000 miles, Curry said. The terrain in the county and the nature of law enforcement driving contributes increased wear on patrol vehicles, Curry said.

It has been about a year and a half since the office put the Chargers the deputies now use into service, Curry said.

“[The Chargers] have performed very well. Our maintenance cost has not been high for the first two years,” Curry said. “I compared them to the Crown Vics’ maintenance cost for the first two years of service and they’re about equivalent.”

The sheriff’s office purchased the six Chargers in 2011 after a lengthy purchasing process that included switching car models from a Chevrolet Caprice to the Chargers. In May 2011, Curry ordered three Chevrolet Caprice vehicles from an Olathe-based dealership, but because of a mistake on the dealer’s part, the order never got placed, a situation Curry was made aware of three months later.

A breach of contract — and a significant cost savings — shifted the six-vehicle deal from McCarthy Auto Group, Olathe, to Overland Park Jeep Dodge and Chrysler for $119,850 — $22,975 per vehicle.

During that bid process in 2011, the local dealership, South Star Chrysler, 327 W. 23rd St., Ottawa, had the highest bid of $192,384 for all six vehicles — more than $50,000 higher than the Overland Park Jeep bid. South Star Chrysler is listed among the dealerships expected to receive a bid solicitation letter.