County seeks bids on two Honda sedans

TOWANDA - The Bradford County government is beginning to purchase natural gas-fueled vehicles.

The Bradford County commissioners announced Thursday that they are planning to purchase two natural gas-fueled Honda Civic sedans for the county's human services department.

In addition, the Bradford County Sheriff's Department has ordered a Chevrolet Tahoe SUV, which will run on both gasoline and natural gas.

The purchase of the Honda Civics is being done "to at least get Bradford County started in using natural gas vehicles. We hope to see how they work out" so that the county can evaluate whether to purchase additional vehicles that use the fuel, said Doug McLinko, chairman of the Bradford County commissioners.

Purchasing the Chevrolet Tahoe is also part of the county's "test run" of using natural gas-fueled vehicles, McLinko said.

"Because we (Bradford County) are the largest producer of natural gas in Pennsylvania, I think we ought to be proud of it, and get some of our fleet (running on natural gas)," McLinko said.

The Bradford County commissioners on Thursday voted to advertise for bids from auto dealers that would be interested in selling the Honda Civics to the county.

The Honda Civics will be used by any of the 80 staff members at the Human Services Department, including case managers and abuse investigators, Bradford County Human Services Director Bill Blevins said.

The Civics will replace outdated vehicles used by the department, he said.

Blevins said he has vehicles in his department's fleet that have over 100,000 miles on them. "I have old, outdated vehicles (that are part of the department's fleet) that, frankly, are getting ready to fall apart," Blevins said.

The Civics will save the county money on fuel costs, McLinko said.

The Civics will be purchased using money from the state that is provided to the county for its human services programs, Blevins said.

At the commissioners' meeting, Bradford County Commissioner Mark Smith asked whether the county had looked into buying American-built natural gas-fueled vehicles for the Human Services Department.

McLinko said that the county had investigated purchasing Dodges, which would need to be converted into natural gas-fueled vehicles. By contrast, the Honda Civics are made as natural gas vehicles, the commissioners said.

"I think the Hondas are much more durable and tougher," McLinko said. "I think (the Honda Civics) will last a lot longer."

Bradford County Chief Clerk Michelle Shedden said Dodge produced the only mid-size cars or smaller SUVs on the state contract which could be converted to a natural gas-fueled vehicle. The county usually buys its vehicles off the state contract, as the vehicles have already been bid out by the state, she said.

If the county was going to use Dodges, the county would not only have to purchase the vehicles, but spend an additional $10,000 on each vehicle to convert them to natural gas, according to Shedden and Blevins.

Tahoe

The Chevrolet Tahoe SUV that was ordered for the Sheriff's Department was also purchased off the state contract, and could arrive within the next month, Sheriff Clinton "C.J." Walters said.

After the Tahoe arrives, the county will convert it to a bi-fuel vehicle, which will run on both gasoline and natural gas, Walters said.

The Tahoe will be used to transport prisoners, he said. The Tahoe will replace the Sheriff's Department's 2005 Crown Victoria, which has over 200,000 miles on it and which "is no longer in service because its transmission went out," Walters said.

"I'm down one vehicle," the sheriff added.

While the Tahoe will work as bi-fuel vehicle, "the trouble is, when you get into smaller cars, I think it's a little difficult to go to bi-fuel," McLinko said.

In addition, the Bradford County commissioners said they have been discussing whether to purchase a bi-fuel SUV, such as a Chevrolet Tahoe, for their own office. The SUV could be used for the many tours that county officials give to officials from out of the county who are interested in finding out about the gas industry locally, McLinko said.

If a bi-fuel SUV were purchased for the commissioners' office, county employees would use it for other county business, too, such as attending trainings and conferences, Shedden said.

Currently, the commissioners' office has no vehicle, so all of its employees, including the commissioners, have to use their own vehicles for all county business, Shedden said.

The SUV for the commissioners' office would be paid for with revenue from the Act 13 gas impact fee, McLinko said.

There are two natural gas fueling stations open to the public in Bradford County.

James Loewenstein can be reached at (570) 265-1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.