The Vernon Police Department is looking to replace one of its aging cars. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
The Vernon Police Department is looking to replace one of its aging cars. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
Wednesday April 3, 2013

VERNON -- After months of debate and sometimes-bitter disagreement, Vernon is buying a police cruiser.

The Selectboard this week unanimously approved the purchase of a new, all-wheel-drive Ford Taurus for $28,153. The price includes outfitting the vehicle with specialized police equipment.

The Taurus will replace a 2005 Crown Victoria that has logged more than 150,000 miles. That car, police officials contend, has become a liability.

"The police department is relieved to finally have this long-standing issue with the new cruiser resolved and behind us," Vernon police Chief Mary Beth Hebert said Tuesday after the board's Monday-evening vote.

"It takes away a lot of the stress and worry we were all feeling with operating an old cruiser that was in the shop almost every week," Hebert added. "We are most grateful to the Selectboard and the finance committee for unanimously approving the purchase of a new cruiser."

It had been, however, a long and contentious process. That's because Hebert and the finance committee repeatedly clashed last year over the Crown Victoria's status.

While Hebert said the car was due for replacement and had become unreliable as an emergency-response vehicle, the finance committee -- citing new guidelines approved at the 2012 Town Meeting -- argued that the car had not reached the end of its useful life.


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The Selectboard concurred with the finance committee's assessment.

At last month's Town Meeting, a majority of voters approved an amendment calling for the "immediate" purchase of a cruiser. The money already had been allocated in the town's capital plan.

But shortly after that vote, officials said the purchase could not happen immediately: The town first had to wait 30 days for any possible appeals of Town Meeting action.

Also, both the finance committee and Selectboard had to vote on the specifics of the police department's cruiser order.

The 30-day period expires at week's end. And with both of those governmental bodies now having given their approval, Hebert was given the go-ahead to buy the new cruiser in the coming days.

"The process has gone the way the process was supposed to work," Selectboard Chairwoman Patty O'Donnell said.

O'Donnell also credited Hebert with having "done her homework and gotten different ideas on different vehicles."

Hebert presented that information to the Selectboard before Monday's vote. She said the Taurus' price -- obtained through a state bidding process -- is the lowest of three quotes for that car.

She also said that price is not going to remain that low for very long.

"The state bid is going to increase April 15 by $2,000," Hebert said.

Hebert also presented prices for two other cars: A Chevrolet Caprice would cost just over $30,000, she told the board, while a Chevy Impala carries a price tag of $25,690.

Hebert said she prefers the Taurus' six-cylinder engine because it will use less fuel than the V-8 found in many police cruisers. And, while the Impala is cheaper, Hebert said the Ford has a higher reliability rating.

Also, the Impala does not feature all-wheel drive.

"The all-wheel drive will be nice, especially in the winter," Hebert said. "We can save some wear and tear on the (police department's) Tahoe."

The chief said she has found some savings to make the Taurus purchase easier on the town budget.

"I was able to cut costs significantly by applying grant money to the purchase of a new light bar and transferring over equipment from the old cruiser that is still in good working order," Hebert said.

She said it will take two to three months to receive the cruiser after ordering the vehicle.

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.