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Gill opts to buy traditional police cruiser

GILL — The selectmen have ultimately opted for a traditional police cruiser, ending an effort to replace a retiring cruiser with a fuel efficient hybrid.

The board went with the Police Department’s recommendation to purchase a Ford Interceptor SUV over strong objection from one member and the town Energy Commission.

Gill voters at last year’s annual town meeting in June, and in a subsequent debt exclusion referendum, authorized $33,000 for a new cruiser and associated equipment to replace one of the department’s three vehicles.

The Gill Energy Commission had pushed for the purchase of a Ford Fusion hybrid, proposing to make up any difference between the sum approved and the cost of the hybrid with state grants at the town’s disposal through the Green Communities program.

The selectmen voted on the purchase at its Wednesday meeting, with members Ann Banash and Randy Crochier backing the Police Department’s recommendation and John Ward the Energy Commission’s proposal.

“Anything I can do to change the path we were on makes a lot of sense to me, and it makes a lot of sense to me for the reasons the Energy Commission laid out,” Ward said.

Energy Commission member Allen Tupper Brown read a statement adopted by the commission in favor of the Fusion hybrid, arguing Gill should take a practical step toward lowering emissions and set an example for others.

“Most people now understand this planet is in a state of mounting crisis resulting from ever increasing carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of fossil fuels,” Brown read.

“The fact that any controversy on this issue even exists in Gill leads one to a sense of despair for the survival of our world as we know it,” reads the statement.

Energy Commission members pointed to the example of New York Police Department, which introduced Ford Fusion hybrids to its patrol fleet in 2010.

Banash said Gill is not comparable to New York City.

Chief David Hastings read a letter signed by himself and Sgt. Christopher Redmond asking the selectmen to select the Interceptor based on their combined 47-plus years of on-the-road police experience. Hastings said he is not opposed to hybrids in general, but specifically to the Fusion.

Hastings and Redmond argued the hybrid, a recent addition to the list of available police vehicles, is untested in Massachusetts and the department cannot afford an unproven vehicle in a fleet of three.

“It shouldn’t be us to be the guinea pig, we’re too small to be the guinea pig,” Hastings said.

Safety and size were also concerns. Crochier said he had researched and tested the options and the Interceptor appeared safer than the Fusion, with larger brakes and space to easily get someone, willing or unwilling, in and out of the backseat.

“What it comes down to for me is the safety of the officers and the experience of these officers,” Banash said.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
ccurtis@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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