By EJ Conzola II
Whitehall police are hoping to replace the vehicle shown in this photo with a new one, but are undecided about the type of vehicle – gas, electric or hybrid – they want to get and how they will pay for it. The current vehicle has about 70,000 miles on it and Police Chief David Buxton said he believes he can sell it for about $20,000 – which would represent about one-third the cost of a new car – if the sale takes place soon. Gas? Electric? Hybrid?
Whitehall police are asking the Village Board for a suggestion on the type of vehicle the department should purchase to replace the oldest vehicle in the department’s fleet, given the length of lead time the manufacturers are seeking to build the specially modified cars and sport utility vehicles used by law enforcement nationwide and the limited number of such vehicles made every year.
But a question that needs to be answered first is, how would the village pay for the purchase?
The department’s oldest car has roughly 70,000 miles on it, which would still enable police to sell the 2017 Dodge Charger for a price that could offset a large portion of the cost of a new vehicle, Police Chief David Buxton told the Village Board on Nov. 14. The car is also beginning to rack up repair bills that a new vehicle would eliminate, he noted.
Sgt. Carl Mattison noted that the manufacturers of specialized police vehicles are taking orders for 2024, but that the window could close before the end of the current year. Although the department would not be able to buy a new vehicle until the next budget year begins in July, the village could place an order now to ensure one would be available when the money becomes available, he said.
However, Village Clerk/Treasurer Stephanie LaChapelle said the village would most likely have to borrow money to make the purchase, but the village’s large outstanding debt currently paying for a variety of infrastructure projects might make obtaining another loan difficult.
And it is unlikely there would be the necessary funds in the 2024-25 budget without borrowing, Mayor Julie Eagan said.
“There’s not much slack in our budget,” Eagan said. “We’d have to find some money somewhere.”
If the village can’t borrow the money, the funds would have to come from “wherever we can make cuts to make this car happen,” she added.
Board member Mike LaChapelle noted that the village is slated to receive a sizeable infusion of cash money from the Champlain Hudson Power Express project, but others said it could be several years before the municipality receives its first payment.
“We can’t depend on that,” board member Bob Putorti said.
In other police department news, Buxton noted that the department currently has a vacant patrol position, and that any hire without prior police experience would be unavailable until he or she completed months of mandated training. If the department could find someone with experience, the person could begin work almost immediately, but there are currently no candidates on the eligibility list that meet the criteria, he said.
Leaving the position vacant would not have any more impact on police response than hiring a new, untrained officer, he said, adding the money from the position’s salary and benefits could be used to cover the cost of the new vehicle – which he placed at around $52,000.
Mattison, who joined the Whitehall force after having worked for the Glens Falls Police Department, said his former agency had leased vehicles, which reduced the costs to the department. He said he would check with his former colleagues to see if the program was still available and, if so, how it works.
As for the type of vehicle the village could purchase, Buxton noted that the manufacturers – Ford, Chevrolet and Dodge – are all phasing out gasoline-powered cars, so the purchase of a hybrid or electric car would make sense.
Putorti said the department should purchase a gas-powered vehicle “while you can,” while LaChapelle, the board liaison to the police department, and board member Tim Watson said they should look into a hybrid.
No final recommendation was made at the Nov. 14 meeting.