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Propane Problems: 13 Vilas County Sheriff's squad LP units not functioningSubmitted: 08/11/2017
Lane Kimble
Lane Kimble
Assistant News Director
lkimble@wjfw.com

Propane Problems: 13 Vilas County Sheriff's squad LP units not functioning
EAGLE RIVER - Liquid propane fuel burns cleaner, costs less than gas, and helps Vilas County squad cars go farther between fill-ups. But propane can't do any of those things if the tanks don't work.

The sheriff's office has 27 dual-fuel LP units installed in squad cars.  It started buying and installing the units in November 2013.  Lately, 13 of them are either out of service or completely failed.  Sheriff Joe Fath says the company they originally bought units from--American Alternative Fuels--went out of business about a year and a half ago, around the same time the units started failing.

"It was very disappointing, but we had also purchased a newer unit that was plug-and-play, and those have been going into our new Ford Explorers," Fath said.

The sheriff's office started buying newer "Prins" brand units, which Fath says work "flawlessly." But those units also cost $6,000 each, which is about $1,500 more than the old tanks.

"We didn't go into it just to save money," Fath said. "We also went into it to have an environmentally friendly, clean burning fuel for our squads."

The squad cars can still run on regular gasoline, even if the LP is not working. In a functioning vehicle, the car starts on gasoline, then switches to LP when it reaches operating temperatures. The driver can press a button on the dashboard to switch between fuel types.

Fath's department will likely get six or seven new Ford Explorers next year as part of its regular replacement rotation, but at this point they won't get LP units.

Fath says money for LP tanks isn't in the budget and not up for grant funding at this time.

"I'm not aware of anything new coming out, but we're going to keep an eye on that," Fath said. "If there's something available, we'll try to apply for funding through those programs."

Fath says that, despite the problems, the LP program is worthwhile. The county locked in a new LP price at $1.29 for next year.

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