Police Chief Thomas Day has authorization to purchase a new vehicle for the Mount Holly Springs police department.
Borough Council Monday gave the chief the go-ahead to buy a 2018 Ford Explorer using an estimated $47,000 drawn from reserves and the general fund budget.
The Explorer will replace a used 2011 Crown Victoria police cruiser Mount Holly had purchased two years ago from Middlesex Township for $5,000, said Day, who is also the borough manager. That vehicle has about 180,000 miles on it and has periodic problems starting.
Last year the borough spent a combined $9,000 in repairs between the 2011 vehicle and a 2010 Crown Victoria that has about 79,000 miles on it. Most of the money went into the former Middlesex Township vehicle.
“The main computer system for that car went out twice,” said Day, adding that each time it cost about $800 to repair the system and to replace a small component. In 2017, the borough spent about $1,300 to try and repair the air-conditioning system on the 2011 Crown Victoria only to be told it was leaking so badly that it needed to be replaced.
“It sounds like a luxury, but you have all those computers in the cars,” Day said referring to the air-conditioning. “You have to keep the car running to keep the computers cool.” Without air-conditioning in the summer, the onboard computer systems will overheat and fail, and computers are vital to the operation of the police department.
Cumberland County has recently switched to a “silent” dispatch system where emergency calls and dispatches come across on the screen for police officers on patrol. The officers input acknowledgments using the onboard computer keyboard, which is also used to access online databases to check vehicle information and criminal history.
The radio system in both the Crown Victoria cruisers is about 25 to 30 years old and is considered obsolete for modern police work, Day said. He said the old radios are not compatible with radio systems used in adjoining counties or the system that Cumberland County plans to implement that would link the local network with those in other counties.
Police cruisers typically have a lifespan of about four years in the field. Even vehicles with relatively low mileage get worn-out quickly by the need to idle for extended periods at accident and crime scenes.
“They are constantly running,” Day said. “Very rarely are they shut-off except for when they are parked after a shift. If the cars are not moving, they are idling. It takes a lot of life out of a gas engine.”
At one point, the Crown Victoria was a popular model for police patrol vehicles but now many departments are switching to Ford Explorers or other kinds of sports utility vehicles, Day said. He said many areas of Mount Holly Springs are very rural and have roads that are difficult to travel on in a Crown Victoria.
A fully equipped police model Ford Explorer will cost the borough about $47,000, Day said. About $31,000 of that is for the vehicle itself, and the balance is for such equipment as the radio system, the onboard police computer, the rear security cage and the front push bar.
Borough council member Edgar Kendall asked the chief whether the borough could save money by transferring some of the equipment from the 2011 Crown Victoria to the 2018 Ford Explorer. Day said no because the vehicle models are so different. The security cage is made specifically for a certain vehicle and cannot be retrofitted into a different vehicle.
In 2016, borough council had to raise taxes and make cuts across-the-board to budget $116,000 toward engineering fees in support of the Hill Street storm water drainage project. The engineering fees were necessary for the borough to have a complete plan that would be eligible for a $1.6 million grant. The borough was successful in obtaining the grant, which would eventually reimburse the upfront costs.
The police department had to shed at least $20,000 from its budget to help offset the engineering fees, council member Deborah Halpin-Brophy said. “The borough owes you back the $20,000,” she told Day.
“We have the funds to do it,” Day told council members Monday. “It’s up to you guys whether you want to continue paying $9,000 a year in repairs.” Council members authorized Day to acquire the Ford Explorer through the state cooperative purchasing program.
The borough will pay for the SUV using about $13,000 drawn from reserves and $34,000 from the general fund budget.