While the miles on their existing patrol vehicles continue to mount, Nevada Highway Patrol troopers can only look in frustration at the new vehicles sitting behind the Reno Department of Motor Vehicles building.
But they aren't alone. Highway Patrol Col. Dave Hosmer says he wants those vehicles outfitted and on the road just as much as his officers.
But because they were all shipped to Reno in the past couple of months and the Highway Patrol has only two mechanics there turning them into patrol vehicles, Hosmer says he now has 73 new Chevrolet Impalas and 36 pickups stored in Reno.
"We're talking 109 vehicles on the ground," he said.
Hosmer said the Highway Patrol's situation isn't like the Reno Police Department which had some 60 vehicles sitting around several months waiting for installation of emergency lights, radios and other patrol equipment. Reno officials apparently changed specifications on the cars and didn't have all the necessary equipment ordered to go with them.
He said Highway Patrol has the lights, radios and other equipment for each vehicle. The problem, he said, is that the Reno mechanics can only build a couple of cars a week because they also have to maintain and repair the existing fleet in western Nevada.
"If we waited for the one or two people in Reno to be able to build these cars, we'd never get it done before we had to buy more cars," Hosmer said.
His boss, Public Safety Director Dick Kirkland, agreed, saying it takes nearly a week to outfit a car because the maintenance staff is so busy with its regular workload.
"It's crazy not to get these cars out there," he said.
Kirkland said the solution would be a contractor. Reno is shipping its cars to Sacramento for outfitting. He said the Highway Patrol doesn't have the funding for that.
Hosmer said his best option is to spread the workload among all of the Highway Patrol's mechanics instead of concentrating it on the Reno crew.
"We're going to load the equipment into the cars -- the overhead lights, the radio consoles, everything that goes into building a patrol car, and we're going to drive those cars or haul them to Las Vegas, Elko, wherever we need to," Hosmer said.
To further speed things up, he said they will experiment with an "abbreviated" decal system. He said the cars will have the Highway Patrol star and other necessary identifying symbols and signs.
"It just won't have, right away, the decorative striping," he said.
In addition to taking an hour or two to apply, he said the stripes may cost several hundred dollars.
"Pretty is nice but fiscally sound is more important," he said.
Hosmer said the whole system or ordering and outfitting the cars has to be changed.
"Even before I came over here from (the Nevada Division of Investigation) the director had indicated a better way to do this would be to have some delivered to Reno, some to Vegas and some to Elko," he said.
That didn't happen. Instead, he said, all the cars the Highway Patrol ordered for this year were shipped to Reno. Hosmer said the cars should be bought and delivered where they will be used as much as possible.
Hosmer said rotating the fleet is a constant job since about one-third of of the Highway Patrol's 300-plus cars and trucks are replaced each year. He said troopers on the road for most of their shift put thousands of miles on a vehicle each month.
And he said high mileage cars should be rotated to command staff "and other people not likely to get involved in a pursuit," until they are replaced.