Unplugged; FD sells electric vehicle that didn’t ‘cut the mustard’

-Messenger photo by Peter Kaspari
Greg Brown, a Fort Dodge parking enforcement officer, poses inside the Polaris GEM enforcement vehicle in October 2017. The vehicle, which cost the city $16,000 was sold back to the manufacturer after it failed to meet driving range expectations.

A parking enforcement vehicle the Fort Dodge Police Department initially hoped would help it be more environmentally-friendly and save money has been sold back to the manufacturer less than a year after it was purchased.

The Polaris GEM, an electric vehicle used by the department’s parking enforcement officers, was bought by the Fort Dodge City Council for $16,000 in October 2017.

Police Chief Roger Porter said the GEM was purchased due to the department’s GO-4 parking vehicle getting older and needing a replacement. It was decided on the GEM because it was less expensive than the GO-4, and, due to the vehicle being electric, Porter said the vehicle would help the department in “going green.”

But almost immediately after the GEM was purchased, Porter said issues arose.

While the battery was supposed to last between 55 to 70 miles per charge, it ended up lasting only 33 miles per charge.

“So then there was an upgrade to the battery we submitted to the council, but we never did pay for it,” Porter said. “We put the battery in and we realized, prior to getting the bill, that it wasn’t cutting the mustard.”

Porter said Capt. Ryan Gruenberg started negotiating with Polaris about what to do and it was ultimately decided that Polaris would buy back the GEM for $11,000. The City Council unanimously approved that deal on Monday.

Additionally, the department was not charged for the battery upgrade, which cost $7,149.66.

Porter said the intentions in purchasing the GEM were good, but it ended up not meeting the expectations that were set for it.

Until a permanent solution is determined, Porter said the department will continue to use the GO-4 vehicle, which is more than 10 years old, for parking enforcement. But he said the department and the city’s Parking Committee want to figure out a replacement sooner rather than later.

“We’re going to be using that (the GO-4), but we definitely need to retire that,” he said. “It’s older and it needs to be replaced.”

Right now the Parking Committee is looking at different options for a parking vehicle.

One of them is possibly buying another GO-4 to replace the aging one.

No final decision has been made yet, and Porter said research the Parking Committee is doing includes looking at other cities to see how they handle parking enforcement.

“We’re looking at different avenues and what’s most economical for the city,” he said. “We’re hoping to come to some sort of decision before the summer’s out, before winter gets here.”

“We want to make sure we make the right decision.”