OCEAN CITY – Many municipalities across the country have been taking advantage of the government’s program that provides surplus military equipment free of charge, and Ocean City is looking into acquiring military vehicles to operate emergency rescues during inclement weather.
During a Police Commission meeting Monday morning, Ocean City Police Department (OCPD) Captain Gregory Guiton presented the opportunity to acquire military Humvees.
“It’s free but we all know that free is never free, there is always associated costs,” Guiton said, explaining the costs will begin with transporting the vehicle to Ocean City and whatever work to be done to the vehicle afterwards, such as paint and equipment.
Guiton furthered the department is looking to receive a vehicle from the closest military base of Ft. Meade or Dover. The vehicle does not have to be limited to police use only, but could be used across city public safety departments, such as fire and beach patrol.
With two major hurricanes impacting Ocean City in the past two years, the town has relied on military assistance and their vehicles to rescue Ocean City residents from high waters. Guiton pointed out military procedure is to have two drivers and a spotter in the vehicle, and once Ocean City’s own personnel joins the rescue it leaves little room for others.
“By acquiring one and making it a city vehicle … we would have the ability to have the vehicle for these types of scenarios that seem to be happening more frequently,” he said. “It doesn’t take a lot of water for our standard vehicles to not be able to go through [high water] and a vehicle such as the military Humvees would be a bonus force to have to provide service to the town specifically during these types of weather events.”
Guiton provided research conducted on other agencies who had taken on military vehicles and their choices in customization, such as having it painted in town colors and branded and adding emergency lights or different types of caps, which would all be additional expenses.
Guiton cautioned against picking available vehicles out on the Internet and if this was a direction the Mayor and City Council wanted to move in he recommended having staff travel to the location to inspect the condition of the available vehicle to avoid repair costs.
“If you thought this is something the town would be interested in, this might be the time to at least acquire it and then put it on the back burner as far as how much you really want to invest in the vehicle itself,” he said. “The availability of the Humvees is getting less and less because people are taking advantage of getting these and it is hit or miss.”
Captain Michael Colbert added during Hurricane Sandy Ocean City asked the state for three Humvees and two deuce and a half vehicle. Due to the ongoing devastation caused by the hurricane to the north, the state was in need of those vehicles in other locations.
“In this instance, we could release them sooner … it would help us reduce our needs from outside of the area,” he said.
Mayor Rick Meehan was in favor of moving forward in acquiring a military vehicle to be used strictly for emergency purposes but added in Ocean City’s case the vehicle should be equipped with a snorkel kit to ride in high waters.
“To have one, I am not as interested in it for a parade or anything else, or to paint, I would rather spend money on a snorkel and have it has an emergency operations vehicle,” he said.
Captain Kevin Kirstein pointed out the vehicle would also have to have the right tires to get through high waters not knowing what lies underneath in flooded streets, such as during Hurricane Gloria when an excess of nails were left among the debris.
Council President Lloyd Martin was hesitant over the expenses associated with maintaining the vehicle and asked for further evaluation on the associated costs before bringing the idea before the council.
The mayor recommended the police department keep a look out for a vehicle that would suit Ocean City’s needs, and at that time bring the opportunity before the Mayor and City Council to approve staff to travel to the location and inspect the vehicle to be acquired and go from there.