Councilman Wants Hybrid Police Vehicles Considered

OCEAN CITY – The approval of the purchase of six, new police cruisers this week prompted future consideration to include more hybrid vehicles in the town’s fleet.

According to Purchasing Director Joe Sobczak, six marked police cars were approved and included in the FY09 budget for the amount of $150,000. Sobczak presented the council with a deal this week that would allow the town to purchase the 2009 vehicles at 2008 prices.

According to Sobczak, the successful low bidder of the 2008 Maryland State contract was authorized by Ford Motor Company to sell 2009 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors at the discounted price of $22,696 per vehicle, totaling $136,176 for all six vehicles, resulting in a potential savings of $13,824.

Sobczak reported that currently, three of the police department’s marked vehicles are out of service, with two wrecked and one in need of a transmission.

The council recognized the value of the savings, however one council member questioned whether more fuel-efficient vehicles could be utilized.

“Is there an opportunity here, instead of the large Crown Vics, to look at substituting some hybrids?” questioned Council member Jay Hancock. “It would seem to me that, particularly in the downtown area, particularly in the summer, a hybrid would be very gas conserving.”

Hancock suggested using the hybrid Ford Escape, in an effort to foster fuel efficiency within the police force.

“I absolutely agree with you, we could save some gas if you elected to go that way,” said Sobczak.

Sobczak pointed out, however, that the council originally approved the purchase of six, full-size patrol vehicles, adding that hybrids would likely not meet the standards of a full-size patrol car.

According to Sobczak, hybrids such as the Ford Escape may not support equipment necessary for a full-size cruiser.

Police departments across the country are already following similar pursuits in an effort to save fuel and energy consumption. Locally, Frederick County has considered the purchase of the Toyota Prius for its police force, however the Prius would be used for administrative divisions rather than for patrol. Across the country in Hawaii, the Honolulu Police Department purchased seven hybrids this year, including six sedans and one SUV.

The common concern with replacing standard cruisers with hybrids is accommodating the full police package, such as equipment, lighting and safety cages. Currently there are no hybrid cars that come equipped with the full police package.

Speed is also a concern in more rural areas, as hybrids typically can’t go as fast, however in the 10-mile stretch of the Ocean City, speed would likely not be a factor.

The main concern is availability, according to Sobczak.

“These hybrids are becoming scarce,” said Sobczak, noting waiting lists that indicate a delay through 2011.

Sobczak suggested moving forward with the purchase of the six Crown Victorias, while giving future consideration to the purchase of hybrids.

“I drive the Escape Hybrid and I love it, 33 to 34 miles per gallon in the summer,” said City Manager Dennis Dare. Dare suggested considering hybrid vehicles for administrative cars rather than for patrol cars.

The council agreed to forward the concerns to the Police Commission for further discussion and consideration, voting unanimously to approve the purchase of the six cruisers in the meantime.