Easthampton police get OK for Tesla vehicles 

  • Easthampton Police Dept.

Staff Writer
Published: 5/23/2022 10:51:04 AM

EASTHAMPTON — The city’s Police Department is adding two 2022 Tesla Model Y electric vehicles to its fleet.

The Teslas will replace two gas-powered Ford Interceptor utility vehicles (2014 and 2016 models) and Conservation Agent Cassie Tragert anticipates the city will save about $5,600 on annual gasoline costs and reduce gasoline usage by 1,858 gallons each year.

The purchase of the compact SUVs is part of an ongoing city commitment to update all of its municipal vehicles with the most fuel-efficient vehicles available, she said.

“As a green community, we need to keep pursuing avenues to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. Switching as many cars as we can to electric vehicles is a positive thing we can do in that favor,” Tragert said.

Although the efforts to reduce the city’s dependence on fossil fuels have been commended, the department’s choice in manufacturer has been called into question by some residents and city councilors.

The City Council held a May 18 public hearing to approve an $89,864 appropriation from free cash that will go toward the purchase of one Tesla cruiser for $56,940 and retrofitting it for the department for $24,129 as well as the installation of two electric vehicle charging stations for $8,795.

Funding toward the purchase of a second vehicle will come from the Police Department’s federal drug forfeiture account.

One of the vehicles will be used primarily for the department’s traffic bureau and the other will be used by the administrative division or detectives bureau, said Police Chief Robert Alberti.

The city also secured $15,000 through the state Department of Energy Resources Green Communities Competitive Grant Program to use toward the purchase of two Tesla vehicles. The Baker-Polito administration announced in April that Easthampton was one of 64 municipalities to receive grant funding for clean energy projects.

As stipulated in the state grant, the department’s gas-powered vehicles are slated to be sold to MHQ, a Marlborough-based car dealer that often resells municipal vehicles.

“We’ve been always working hard to try to get environmentally friendly vehicles and this is a good start, and we’re getting a lot of federal help for it,” said City Councilor Dan Rist.

At the public hearing, resident Donovan Lee questioned the ecological benefit of purchasing another vehicle that he felt the department does not currently need. Lee also said he felt the council was being “strong-armed” by the Police Department to acquire funding “with as little oversight as possible.”

“Time and time again I see our schools, our DPW, our library come to you in need of money for things that keep our city running, and you say there’s no money for them,” he said. “You just can’t spare any more for student supports in our classroom, our nuts and bolts for our sewer department. But every time the Easthampton Police Department comes to you with their hands out, you give them money. No questions asked.”

Resident Desiree Marsili said she was pleased to see that the city was seeking vehicle options that did not include “gas guzzlers.”

Ultimately, the council approved the appropriation, 8-1, with At-Large Councilor Koni Denham dissenting.

“As someone who grew up in extreme poverty, I would find it exceedingly challenging to be pulled over in my community by a luxury vehicle,” she said. “I think that sends the wrong message to a working-class community like this.”

An impassioned Denham noted that through her research she found that some cities regret purchasing Tesla vehicles as they were compact. She also said she does not support the company’s CEO, Elon Musk, and would not compromise her values.

Councilor Tom Peake also voiced concern for purchasing vehicles from Tesla Motors.

“I like the idea of us electrifying our fleet a lot, I just have a little bit of trepidation about the company,” Peake said.

Teslas were chosen for their ability to meet the Police Department’s required performance standards while still being fully electric, according to Tragert.

“This was the first electric vehicle that came with a five-star crash rating,” Alberti said. “It’s paramount that our officers are safe. Period.”

Alberti said that the two Tesla vehicles would be ordered at some point in the next week.

Currently, the department has one hybrid Ford Interceptor and six marked gas-powered cruisers, three of which have more than 100,000 miles and expired power train warranties.

Alberti said he tries to purchase a new vehicle each year to maintain the department’s rotation but fell behind when one was not purchased in 2020. In the future, he aims to convert all six of the marked gas-powered cruisers to hybrid models.

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