PARIS — The Oxford County Sheriff’s Office is upgrading its fleet of 22 vehicles this year, replacing eight of them.

Sheriff Wayne Gallant said the purchases will ensure that the department has a more efficient and reliable set of vehicles. He said they are needed due to past budget cuts and gradual wear and tear on the cruisers.

“Through the years, they’ve cut one or two vehicles and it starts to catch up with you,” Gallant said.

The Sheriff’s Office usually requests five to six vehicles each year, and the number is cut back to four or five as part of the county budget process. This year, the department requested $120,000, a $54,000 increase from last year’s approved budget of $66,000. The county commissioners and Budget Committee approved $96,000 for the department’s cruiser expenditures.

The total replacement cost of the eight vehicles is $182,432, with $62,000 to be paid this year and the remainder coming from a loan to be paid in 2011 and 2012. Gallant said he hopes to budget about $10,000 less in the vehicle account for 2011 and start a capital account for the purchase of a single cruiser each year. Gallant said the cycle allows the department to anticipate vehicle purchases and get better deals on trade-ins.

The department will purchase two SUVs and two pickup trucks from Ripley and Fletcher in Paris and four Dodge Chargers from Bessey Motors, also in Paris. Gallant said the pickups will go to two sergeants for use in evidence recovery, abandoned property and other matters.

Chief Deputy Dane Tripp said the department has had to rent trucks or have deputies use their personal vehicles in the past for such duties. He said one of the SUVs will go to the Criminal Investigation Division to carry evidence-gathering equipment.

Gallant said deputies put about 35,000 miles on a vehicle each year, and they usually don’t last more than three years. One SUV, which was purchased in 2007, has 116,000 miles on it and will require $2,500 in repairs before it can be traded. Additional stress is put on the vehicles through fast starts, idling hours, rough roads, etc.

The department has recently been transitioning from Ford Crown Victorias to Dodge Chargers. Gallant said the Chargers have a good maintenance record and average better gas mileage by about three to four miles per gallon.

“We’ve been very pleased with them,” he said. “They work well and they drive well, and a lot of agencies are going to them.”

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