With the elimination of Lakehurst's business administrator position, the car that once went along with the job has been converted for police use in an effort to save money.
The vehicle, a 2007 Dodge Charger, has traveled only about 17,000 miles and was used lightly during its years of service, said Chief of Police Eric Higgins. Since the borough eliminated the business administrator position in January, repurposing the car for police use was an attractive option.
"We actually saved about $20,000," Higgins said.
All the department needed to do was outfit the car, which Higgins said was originally purchased as a police package vehicle "in the sense that it had the suspension and everything like that," with law enforcement trappings. When first bought in 2007 for administrative use, the car did not have police equipment such as a back seat cage, computer or emergency lighting.
"We're all very happy with the way it came out," said Mayor Harry Robbins earlier this month when the borough debuted the car's new look at National Night Out. "It looks great."
Lakehurst officials decided to eliminate the business administrator position — a job that some felt was not required in the borough — when Robbins became mayor on Jan. 1.
The police department tries to purchase a new vehicle every 12 to 18 months, Higgins said. But, why buy when a suitable car is already owned and not in use?
"There was no longer a use for it downtown, so the governing body gave this car to the police department," Higgins said. "It's like getting a new car for the police department. This car had very little use. It hasn't sat idling like a police car."
The blue car, which is clearly marked as a Lakehurst police patrol unit, was not painted white like the department's other vehicles, which saved money and also allows it to more easily monitor for traffic violations. Equipment, including the radio and radar, came from an older car at no cost to the borough.
"We wanted to go with a stealth-type vehicle," a usually darker-colored car without emergency lights mounted on the roof, Higgins said. Manchester also recently added one such car to its fleet.
"Hopefully when we do have complaints from citizens, we can put this car out there. It's not immediately recognizable as a police car," Higgins said. "Hopefully we can address some issues by using this car."
The chief said that the borough switched from Ford Crown Victorias to Charges about five years ago and with the newest addition now has three of the latter. Dodge Durangos are used by supervisors and patrol officers in inclement weather.
"It's a very reliable car and so far — knock on wood — we've had very little maintenance with these cars. No major issues, no recalls," he said.
Adding a new car to the fleet every 12 to 18 months keeps maintenance costs down, according to Higgins. Before this scheduled, the chief said that the department might spend the same amount on repairs as it would to purchase a new car.
"We used to get three years out of a car," Higgins said. Now, by maintaining and cycling vehicles, cars now last for about five years. Police vehicle engines run while officers run roadside radar patrols, conduct traffic stops or use their in-car electronics.
"You take the miles on a police car and multiply it by three," Higgins said. "Some people may say that 1,000,000 isn't much for a car these days, and that's true. But not for a police vehicle."
The 2005 Crown Victoria that the repurposed Charger replaces was given to the Lakehurst First Aid Squad, according to an Aug. 16 resolution passed by the Borough Council. Retired cars are also sold through GovDeals.com auctions, Higgins said.
"We're always looking for ways to save money without jeopardizing public safety," Higgins said.