VERNON -- After further review, Vernon still won’t be getting a new police cruiser.
Though police administrators maintain that the department’s aging Ford Crown Victoria should be replaced, the town finance committee on Wednesday again recommended that the car should stay on the road.
The decision ultimately is up to the Vernon Selectboard. But Patty O’Donnell, who chairs that board, attended Wednesday’s meeting and said her opinion has not changed.
"There has been no proof that this vehicle is at the end of its useful life," O’Donnell said.
The finance committee’s meeting included no police participation: Officials said Chief Mary Beth Hebert could not attend for personal reasons, and the committee also was notified that Sgt. Bruce Gauld would not be attending.
Marylynn Scherlin, the committee’s chairwoman, said she decided to have the meeting anyway because "we needed to move forward" on the matter.
"We’ve been working on this issue for some time, and members of the committee were working around their schedules," Scherlin said.
Both Hebert and Gauld have said the 2005 Crown Victoria, which has logged more than 130,000 miles, is no longer a reliable emergency vehicle. And they point out that the town has approved funds for a replacement.
Gauld, in a recent letter to the finance committee and Selectboard, contended that "the town is opening itself up for
Hebert also has said that she never intended for Vernon’s new nine-year replacement policy for cruisers - approved at this year’s town meeting - to apply to the Crown Victoria.
But town officials don’t see it that way. A May Selectboard vote to buy a new Ford Taurus cruiser for $33,189.85 was contingent on finance committee approval, and the committee subsequently nixed the purchase.
Committee members on Wednesday reiterated the reasons why: The car is not nine years old and has not reached 150,000 miles, and they say the vehicle has not undergone major repairs.
"I just don’t see that there are issues to be concerned about," committee member Sheldon Shippee said.
Scherlin said she researched the matter since the Selectboard’s last meeting on July 9, pulling mileage and maintenance records for the police fleet. She also said she had talked with Gauld and Hebert.
After about 45 minutes of discussion on Wednesday, the conclusion of the five committee members was clear: "I don’t see anything that has changed," Shippee said.
Scherlin said the committee won’t revisit the matter until next year. And she said concerns that the cruiser’s price could rise significantly by then are unfounded.
"If it’s on a state bid, I can’t see it fluctuating very much," Scherlin said.
O’Donnell said she does not believe the town is risking any liability by keeping the Crown Victoria for now. She pointed out that the department has two other vehicles.
"We’re talking about three cars here," O’Donnell said. "There’s never three officers on duty at the same time."
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.