WESTBOROUGH – Town Meeting voters will decide later this month whether to purchase three cruisers for the Westborough Police Department.
The cruisers are one part of Westborough’s Capital Improvement Plan, which will be on the Town Meeting warrant when voters gather on March 19.
This move is part of the department’s schedule of replacing its cruisers and will cost $185,000 from free cash. The warrant notes that the police department will purchase hybrid vehicles when possible.
This discussion, in turn, will come after police saw four cruisers damaged in a string of accidents in November of last year and in January of this year.
Cruiser crashes have long term impacts
This was after a number of cruisers were hit in those recent incidents.
The first crash resulted in an OUI arrest after a driver slammed into a stopped cruiser on Route 9 in November.
A second crash saw a vehicle strike a cruiser, also on Route 9, while it was stopped at a red light in January.
A third crash then happened just a matter of hours later, yet again on Route 9, when a vehicle struck one Westborough police cruiser, then pushing it into a second cruiser.
Deputy Chief Todd Minardi reported that two 2018 cruisers and one 2017 cruiser were totaled. These were all traditional gas vehicles.
‘I’ve never seen…this happen’
The department was five cars down at the time of the summit, with those four vehicles involved in crashes and with one additional hybrid “acting up,” Chief Jeffrey Lourie said.
“I’ve never seen in my career this happen where we have all these cars totaled at the same time within days of each other or months,” Lourie said.
The department was using a pick-up truck and a take-home vehicle for patrols.
Town Manager Kristi Williams said the town’s insurance covered the full cost to replace those vehicles. The department then ate the cost difference to replace them with hybrids, Lourie said.
While insurance has covered these costs, for now, the crashes have impacted the town’s replacement cycle, meaning that it may have to replace about six cruisers at once at some point between five and six years from now, Lourie said.
“It would’ve been nice if these three were the ones that we were replacing, but they’re not,” Lourie said. “They’re newer vehicles. They’re three of them that are totaled. [But] we still have to stay with our plan.”
“We’re obviously going to be aware of the situation with the fleet and having all of those vehicles around the same year,” Minardi said. “Our goal will be moving forward to manage their use so that hopefully in four to five years we can still hold onto a couple of them and only replace a few so that we can manage that over time.”
Police talk take-home vehicles
Patrol cruisers are not the only vehicles used by the Westborough Police Department.
According to Lourie, the department has nine take-home vehicles.
Select Board member Patrick Welch asked if the department examined its use of take-home vehicles.
Lourie said he believes that the take-home vehicle fleet saves money over time because such vehicles are only used by a specific investigator or administrator.
With take-home vehicles, detectives can respond directly to the scene of an incident or to a hospital in some cases, such as sexual assaults, Lourie said.
“[In] my opinion, I think our program is excellent, and I think, like I said, our cars are going to be with us for many, many, many years, unlike our patrol vehicles,” Lourie said.