Brand new state vehicles sit idol

October 26, 2009 7:33:22 PM PDT
At a time when state dollars are especially precious, California has spent millions on cars and trucks that have sat idle for months, some even years.

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A Sacramento Bee investigation found two of the state's largest agencies doled out $5.5 million for new vehicles this year, only to let them sit idle, collecting dust for months. At the Caltrans yard, a few trucks were bought in 2006 and have never been used.

"In the best of all worlds, we like things to flow as well as we can so we get the vehicles out, but sometimes that's not always the case," says Matt Rocco from Caltrans.

Rocco says Caltrans has to modify or add after market equipment to meet the workers' needs and that takes months. Sometimes retrofit projects are put on hold because of changing priorities.

When asked if the state is letting some new cars sit idle, Jeffrey Young. from the California Department of General Services, said "Well, we did have them sitting idle for a few months. That's absolutely true."

Over at the Department of General Services, 50 brand new Priuses, costing more than $1 million, sat on the roof of the state garage since February until the Bee began asking questions. Now, they're finally being converted into plug-in hybrids after waiting for federal stimulus money, but that doesn't explain why state workers couldn't have at least driven them in the meantime.

"In retrospect, it would have been a good idea to put them in the daily rental fleet," says Young.

This isn't the first time the state has had this problem. Back in 2007, the state auditor found CHP wasted nearly $1 million for letting 51 vans sit while waiting for police equipment to be installed. All this idle time infuriates families who've seen public education cut to the core.

"Why do they need to have brand new cars? Why can't they fix the ones they've got?" says Nancy Feri, a concerned grandparent.

When asked why they couldn't just wait to spend the money because they could use that money to save some programs, Young said "You're right. The budgeting process is complex."

The state says it has to keep replacing its fleet because some don't meet environmental regulations anymore. It also sometimes becomes cheaper to buy a new car than maintain the old one.

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