County Watch

Snohomish County’s plan to save money by not buying new vehicles in 2004 looks like a bust.

Last year’s car-buying moratorium hasn’t led to savings. Blame the rising cost of maintenance as the county’s vehicles age, an increase in the price of new vehicles and lower resale values for the vehicles the county kept instead of retiring.

The county kept 29 vehicles in service rather than buy new ones. Keeping them on the road cost $30,758, according to a recent report.

The vehicles included a 1992 Ford F150 pickup, some 1999 Ford Crown Victorias and a 2001 Chevrolet cargo van.

Although it seems like common sense that putting off a purchase and using a vehicle longer would save money, just the opposite proved true.

“It’s clear that it actually costs more,” said Allen Mitchell, fleet manager for the county.

Generally, vehicles with 105,000 miles are replaced, before engines and transmissions fail and costly repairs are needed.

“If you keep them longer, you’re obviously going to get more incidents of those kinds of things,” Mitchell said.

While the value of vehicles with more than 100,000 miles is not very good, the county has had success in selling its vehicles as surplus.

“Ours always look good even if they do have high mileage,” he said.

The county’s total fleet numbers about 1,500 vehicles, including cars, pickups and vans.

Living large: The draft of the county’s comprehensive plan, the document that will guide development over the next two decades and details how the county proposes dealing with a projected population increase of about 300,000 people, is out for public review.

The county’s planning department will have open-house meetings over the next three weeks to talk about the plan. The open houses are all from 5 to 8 p.m.:

* Tuesday in the main conference room of the new county administration building in downtown Everett.

* Thursday in the cafeteria at Alderwood Middle School in Lynnwood.

* April 28 in the commons at Post Middle School in Arlington.

* May 2 in the commons at Monroe Junior High School.

Go for the green: The county parks department is looking for volunteers to help at an ivy-pulling work party Saturday at Meadowdale Park. Volunteers should bring work gloves, pruners and dress for the weather. The park is at 6026 156th St. SW in Edmonds. For more information or driving directions, call the county at 425-388-6604.

Claim of the week: Verizon wants $10,967 from the county to pay for repairs to an underground cable. A county road crew cut the line three times over three consecutive days – two days in a row in the same spot – when workers were putting in a culvert near Cedar Ponds Road.

Next week: The Snohomish County Public Facilities District will get an update on the Future of Flight Aviation Center at Paine Field during the district’s next meeting.

How you can get involved: The public meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday in the Jackson Boardroom on the sixth floor of the old county administration building.

Reporter Brian Kelly covers county government for the Herald. He can be reached at 425-339-3422;

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