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City of Memphis Spends $77,750 Annually to Wash Fleet Vehicles

February 17, 2004

In a little more than six years, the city has paid $466,504.91 to keep its fleet of about 4,780 vehicles clean, according to The Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper. That breaks down to an average of about $77,750.81 a year, much of which has gone to Mr. Pride, which signed a contract with the Memphis Police Department (MPD) in September 1997. Much of that money — an estimated 80 percent monthly — comes from the MPD, which has about 1,750 vehicles. The contract includes a clause allowing city vehicles to be washed at the rate of $7.45, while a basic wash at Mr. Pride normally costs $11.99. The newspaper pointed out that the Shelby County government operates two facilities, where its fleet of about 1,340 vehicles can be washed. It costs virtually nothing, since labor is provided by inmates of the Shelby County Correction Center. Costs that are assessed to any one department — about $9 per wash — stay in the county's general fund. "There's really no cost," county spokeswoman Susan Adler Thorp said. "It's only an accounting transfer within the general fund. There is no money that goes from department to department." The Shelby County Sheriff's Department's narcotics division has a similar deal with Mr. Pride, spokesman Steve Shular said. Since 1999, that division has spent $11,840.03. Shular said that was paid with confiscated drug money. Shular said sheriff's officials didn't want inmates to wash those cars, since many are used in undercover work. Officials say they have a system to prevent unauthorized washes of private vehicles. That system involves the vehicle seal and its identification number, which is supposed to be recorded on the invoice. Memphis City officials aren't sure whether they could take advantage of the Shelby County's methods.
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