WILLMAR - Leased vehicles will become the future for the Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office, a move expected to cut down on maintenance costs and save money overall for the department.

The Kandiyohi County Board voted Tuesday to enter into a lease program with Enterprise Holdings.

For now, the program will be confined to the Sheriff's Office but could be expanded to the rest of the county fleet, depending on how the first few years go, said Larry Kleindl, county administrator.

"We want to take this cautiously," he said.

Estimates indicate Kandiyohi County could save as much as $823,000 over the next five years by gradually replacing its law enforcement fleet with new vehicles leased through a commercial equity agreement. Going forward, vehicles will be replaced on a regular schedule, allowing the county to reap higher trade-in values and reduce the maintenance and repair costs that can be incurred by older or high-mileage vehicles.

The lease package also includes data collection of maintenance costs and fuel economy, allowing the county to track how much it's spending each year on its law enforcement fleet.

The issue has been studied extensively by county staff. It was first proposed to the County Board last month.

A number of other Minnesota counties have lease arrangements with Enterprise, Kleindl said.

"We believe this is a good route to go, at least for the sheriff's department." he said.

Sheriff Dan Hartog said the first 10 vehicles will be ordered this fall and delivered through a local dealership by the end of the year. They will replace older vehicles that range anywhere from five to 15 years old and include both patrol cars and vehicles used by jail staff to transport prisoners. Two trucks that haul equipment such as the water patrol boat and the county's dive trailer also are slated for the first round of lease replacement, Hartog said.

The county would normally budget to replace six vehicles next year.

Enterprise manages nearly 2 million vehicles for public entities all over the United States. Local governments that use the program report lower maintenance costs and less down time for repairs. Phasing older vehicles out of their fleets also allows cities and counties to take advantage of the improved safety features that have been engineered into new vehicles in the last few years.

The lease program will be watched closely to determine how effective it is, Kleindl said.

Down the road, the county may consider expanding it to other departments, he said. "We still want to study the other areas."

The County Commissioners were supportive Tuesday of the plan, voting unanimously to go ahead with it.

"It's probably not for every county (but) I think it's going to work for us," said Chairman Rollie Nissen.