In a small community, grants are a necessity for procuring needed equipment. Over the last several years, the Grantfork Police Department has become quite good at getting them.
Computers, a breathalyzer, radar and an in-car audio-video system have all been purchased with grant money. And now, a squad car can be added to that list.
With assistance from a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development grant, the village was able to purchase a new 2016 Ford Explorer, which GPD recently put into service.
“It’s called a Community Facilities Grant. We do a lot of equipment and vehicles,” said Kim Swisher, area specialist for USDA Rural Development in Mount Vernon.
The grant is based on population and median income and has a limit of $25,000.
“So grants usually go to smaller communities, like Grantfork,” Swisher said.
Swisher said other communities have applied for the grant to purchase things such as fire equipment and bullet-proof vests.
“As long as it is something that is needed and there’s a reason,” she said.
The $14,000 matching grant amounted to 35 percent of the vehicle’s $40,000 total cost, which included purchase price and the cost of equipping it for police use.
The Explorer, which was purchased from Tri Ford in Highland, replaces a Chevrolet Impala that had about 80,000 miles on it. The village intends to sell that car. An ordinance seeking sealed bids for the vehicle will likely be passed at the Village Board’s next meeting.
Grantfork Police Chief Justin Rottmann said the purchase was a team decision.
“This our car, not Justin’s car,” Rottmann said.
Including Rottmann, the village has four part-time officers and will likely add another in the next month. Before the department made a choice on what type of vehicle to purchase, all the officers video conferenced with one another to come to a collective decision.
“Within minutes, we had it narrowed down to the Explorer,” Rottmann.
Explorers are becoming a more popular purchase for local departments. Highland has four and is looking to purchase another.
Rottmann said the all-wheel drive of the Explorer, higher clearance point, and room to store other equipment were all selling points.
The price point was several thousand dollars cheaper than a Chevrolet Tahoe, a similar type of vehicle, and within $1,000 of a Chevrolet Caprice, a car commonly used by police departments, Rottmann said.
“Your Caprices are built for speed. How many towns need that?” Rottmann said. “When you look at the numbers, it was a no-brainer to go with the Explorer.”
The addition of the Explorer means the village now has two police vehicles. The other is a Dodge Charger. It is a marked car that the village purchased from the Pontoon Beach Police Department for $1.
“This is the first time in history that we have two cars. And the reason we do is the first one cost $1,” Rottmann said. “If (the Charger) starts costing us too much, we will get rid of it.”
The price was right, but Rottmann said it would not have been practical to rely on the Charger as the village’s primary vehicle. It has about 80,000 miles on it as well.
“It’s been rode hard. Pontoon Beach has a lot of interstate, and they are busy,” he said.
The new vehicle is unmarked. Rottmann said that was a financial decision, as it would have cost somewhere between $800 to $1,000 to outfit the vehicle with decals.
“So, can you justify that?” Rottmann said. “I find it difficult to justify putting the lettering on when you drive once around town and all of Grantfork knows this is their car.”
Many have already gotten a look.
“Before we even put it in service, we put it in the homecoming parade, and the response was overwhelming,” Rottmann said.
More about USDA Community Facilities Grants
This program provides affordable funding to develop essential community facilities in rural areas. An essential community facility is defined as a facility that provides an essential service to the local community for the orderly development of the community in a primarily rural area, and does not include private, commercial or business undertakings.
For more information, contact Kim Swisher at the USDA Rural Development office in Mount Vernon at (618) 244-0773, ext. 128 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.