The City of Trenton is currently pursuing the purchase of 10 marked Ford Explorer four-wheel drive SUVs for the city’s police department, according to the City Council docket that was handed out at Tuesday’s meeting.
A resolution on the docket called for the rejection of all bids to supply those vehicles, but given the fact that former Police Director Joseph Santiago has a penchant for all things both flashy and costly, it is likely the city will quickly rebid the vehicles and attempt another purchase.
West Ward Councilwoman Annette Lartigue quickly called on officials from the Douglas H. Palmer administration to ensure that when purchased, the 10 Ford Explorers would not be allowed to leave Trenton city limits.
Ms. Lartigue has the right idea, although what would be better than calling on administration officials to regulate marked vehicles – which rarely leave city limits – would be a comprehensive policy restricting the use of all city vehicles from outside use.
Besides the Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner hybrids used by some city officials, most use gas-guzzling Ford Crown Victorias, unmarked Ford Expeditions, and Jeep Cherokees, all of which get significantly under 20 miles per gallon around town.
Added together, the use of all of those vehicles means two things: hefty gasoline bills and a relatively short lifetime for city-owned automobiles.
Also, the all-road vehicles allow the city to make purchases outside of the regular budget. Four wheel drive vehicles can be purchased through capital budgets, meaning their cost will be spread out to the taxpayer over many years, likely after the vehicle is no longer in service.
The city’s current fiscal woes mean that City Council members could take the very easy step and do what Hamilton Township did, which is enact a comprehensive and strict vehicle usage policy.
The policy of unnecessary access to city vehicles should end, and a mileage reimbursement system should be put into place. For those who absolutely need a vehicle, more gas-efficient cars should be purchased, and left in secure city lots when not being used for city business.
High ranking police, fire, and education professionals should also be forced to leave their city vehicles in holding lots, and made to make their commute home to far-flung towns across the state in their own car, and on their own tab.
This fiscally and environmentally damaging system needs to come to an end, ASAP.