NEWTOWN TOWNSHIP >> Two new replacement police cars will be hitting the streets of the township before the end of the summer thanks to a grant secured by State Senator Steve Santarsiero.
The Bucks County senator delivered the good news on June 4 to Police Chief John Hearn and Newtown Township Supervisors David Oxley and Dennis Fisher in the form of a check for $131,900.
The state grant will fund the purchase of two Chevrolet Tahoe police vehicles outfitted with emergency equipment, new computer systems, a new in car video system, printers for the issuance of e-tickets designed to get the officer back in service as quickly as possible and emergency lighting, equipment and other safety features.
Last fall, the supervisors faced a particularly challenging budgetary process, struggling with balancing a tax increase with the ongoing impacts of the pandemic on its residents. And two of the four replacement vehicles requested by the Chief didn’t make the cut.
“I was talking with David, Dennis and Phil throughout the budget process last year and I know they were struggling to to do the right thing. It’s hard. And it’s a balancing act,” said Santarsiero.
Having faced similar challenges as a township supervisor, Santarsiero thought he could help and found money in a general state grant program that appropriates funds specifically for equipment like emergency vehicles.
“That’s what these grants are for. They are there to help the community, particularly during this past year when our municipalities were facing some real budget constraints due to COVID,” said Santarsiero. “I’m happy I was able to step in and help backfill that need.
“Talking to these guys throughout the budget process last year, they told me where some of the difficulties were going to be. And this was certainly a need,” added Santarsiero. “And as a former township supervisor, I know that we have to make sure that our local force has the equipment it needs to keep the community safe,” he added.
Supervisors Fisher and Oxley were on hand to officially accept the check, but also to thank Santarsiero for the helping hand.
“It’s important that we have Senator Santarsiero here supporting us in these challenging moments when we’re going through our budgetary process,” said Oxley. “When he called and said he could help, I said thank God, because it’s important for our police officers to know that they have our support, that we are working through it.
“But it’s also important for the community and our residents to know that their police officers can get to them in a timely fashion,” said Oxley, who raised that very concern during the budget process. “With older vehicles, that can be a concern. It’s great that we have these working partnerships with Steve Santarsiero and our board members who work tirelessly to make sure we are doing the right thing.”
Among those who pushed the hardest for a fully funded budget, including the police vehicles, was chairman Phil Calabro.
“I appreciate him standing up for that because these are tough votes and they are not always popular decisions, but at the end of the day you get elected to do a job and do the right thing. That’s what being in office is about,” said Santarsiero.
Chief Hearn said the replacement vehicles are vital in keeping the police fleet on the road and servicing the public safely and economically in Wrightstown and Newtown townships, a 23 square mile area.
“It costs a lot of money,” said Hearn of the vehicles, “but on the backside, it’s safety, visibility out in the public and keeping the vehicles on the road. When we keep our replacement cycle going, it keeps the fleet manageable so when the old cars go out to pasture we are not spending $4,000, $5,000, $6,000 for a motor on a car with 125,000 miles on it. It’s like your own personal car. How long do you keep it until you trade it in and get a new one? It’s smart business when you cut your losses and move on.”
The department’s fleet includes 16 marked cars, seven unmarked cars, four motorcycles and a crime scene van.
“We’re very frugal with our money here. We try to cover all the bases, but policing does cost money. It’s your biggest line item,” said Hearn. “We’re trying to get all our bases covered so the community is protected.
“And we can’t do what we do without the support of our elected officials,” added Hearn. “They make or break what we do on a daily basis. They control the purse strings. They see our needs. And their support of our department and our police needs is phenomenal.”