Miami-Dade County is under fire for letting hundreds of new cars-Toyota Prius hybrids, pickup trucks, vans and police patrol vehicles-sit, unused, in a county garage. For six years.
Back in 2006, the county added 908 new cars to its 7,300-car fleet. A year later, after the recession hit, they reduced their fleet by 947. Some of the remaining cars were sold, but the others were warehoused in the Earlington Heights Metrorail station parking garage, said County spokesperson Suzy Trutie.
By the spring of 2008, the number of idle vehicles-worth an estimated $4 million- had grown to 1,200, the Miami Herald reported.
According to Trutie, brand new car and trucks sitting idle year after year was no big deal. "They were in storage in the garage," she said. "We always have an inventory of cars in storage because we are constantly upgrading our fleet. This is what we always do. This is not new. It's part of our every day operations."
County Mayor Carlos Gimenez had actually researched the affair back in October, 2011 - some five years after the car pileup began. After, said Trutie, he switched out the cars that consumed more gas with cost efficient-vehicles like the hybrids.
"The ones we had on the street-if they were in good condition we'd sell them," she said. "That's all we have as far as inventory for the entire county."
Still, in a county with a mayoral contest underway, no muffler remains unturned. Last week, mayoral candidate Joe Martínez, currently Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman, said he was forming a committee to investigate any possible wrongdoing associated with the vehicles' initial purchase.
"It's outrageous," he told the Herald . "Those brand new vehicles were bought and parked in a building for years. This is not the first time this has happened. This is why we have to investigate and find out exactly what happened, so it doesn't happen again."
Yesterday, Mayor Gimenez released a 64-page memorandum on the situation, noting that his administration has reduced the number of vehicles in the garage from 340 to 157, 66 of which are police cars.
"We will continue to institute controls within the County's fleet and only purchase new vehicles when it becomes an operational necessity," he said.