The Washington Township Police Department will be receiving three new patrol vehicles in 2013, while reducing its total fleet by four after receiving the approval by the township committee to spend the money this week.
During its first budget session of the year, the governing body went over line items with the police department, with the most major — and timely — purchase coming in the form of new patrol cars. The department originally requested three new patrol cars and two sport utility vehicles — Chevrolet Tahoes — and were approved for two of the sedans.
The other vehicles would be considered as budget talks moved along this year.
But on Monday, Police Chief Michael Bailey spoke to the committee during its regular meeting and explained that the company from which vehicles are ordered put out a deadline of Feb. 21 to make final requests. Bailey said the original deadline was in March.
The committee gave Bailey the go-ahead on ordering a third vehicle, but still held back on the SUVs, and not before some clarification was needed by one of the committee members.
“What’s so special about these cars that we need to stick with them and order them now?” asked Committeeman Jim LiaBraaten, who was against approving the third Caprice prior to the discussion.
Bailey elaborated on the topic and explained that there are three pursuit rated vehicles available to the department: the Caprice; Dodge Charger; and Ford Interceptor. When given approval for new vehicles in 2012 after the Ford Crown Victoria was discontinued, Washington Township opted for the Caprice.
“The plan is to stick with the same vehicle so that equipment can be switched from car to car when we have turnover,” Bailey said. “We save about $7,000 per car when we do that.”
Bailey also said that if police use a non-pursuit rated vehicle and crash the car in a pursuit, there could be very costly legal ramifications.
With the addition of three vehicles in 2013, the fleet will still be knocked down from 22 to 18, saving thousands per year in costs. Regular maintenance on a police vehicle can run approximately $2,700 per year, with a $1,000 annual insurance amount, Mayor Ken Short said.
The three vehicles being replaced in 2013 will either be auctioned off or moved to a different municipal department, along with the four vehicles that were part of the reduction process, Bailey said.
Each Caprice costs $27,085.25 plus $7,500 in equipment, totaling $34,585.25. Equipment from the Ford Crown Victoria model cannot be transferred to the Chevy Caprice model.
If approved, each SUV will cost $35,510 with equipment. Those vehicles would be used by detectives and administration full time, and for patrol during inclement weather, Bailey said.
The department received four new vehicles in 2011 and two new vehicles in 2012. The lifecycle of a patrol car is roughly three years, Bailey said, with each vehicle amassing between 30,000 and 40,000 miles annually. An SUV with four-wheel drive lasts roughly a decade for the department, Bailey said.
“We need to make a tough decision,” Committeeman Dave Kennedy said. “We either spend money trying to keep these cars running all the time, or spend for the new ones.”
There is no current time table on when the vehicles will be ready for use.