WATERVILLE — Expect to see more city police driving all-wheel-drive sport utility vehicles instead of cars in the future, according to Police Chief Joseph Massey.

Massey told city councilors Tuesday night that SUVs are more versatile than cars, have more room for people, storage and equipment, and have a better trade-in value.

“They’re just a better all-around vehicle,” Massey said.

Councilors Tuesday voted 7-0 to award a $49,560 contract to Quirk Ford, of Augusta, for two 2015 Ford utility police interceptor SUVs. The price includes the trade-in value of two Ford Crown Victoria cruisers — a 2008 and a 2009. Councilors also voted unanimously to buy a 2014 Dodge Ram quad cab 4-by-4 pickup truck from Central Maine Motors Auto Group for $20,119. That purchase includes the trade-in value of a 2006 Ford Expedition SUV.

Massey said a lot of departments are giving up cars for SUVs.

“I think that you’re going to find that as time goes on, most police departments are going to transition over to those all-wheel drive SUVs,” he said.

He said Waterville police Officer Alan Main, the school resource officer and fleet manager for the department, keeps track of all the vehicles, researches the best options for purchasing new ones, attends vehicle events and has good contacts with dealers.

“They’re (SUVs) really, I think, probably the best vehicle for a local police department, particularly in the Northeast,” Massey said.

Waterville replaces a police vehicle when it garners about 100,000 miles, he said.

“Do you see transitioning all your cars — all your cruisers — to SUVs?” asked Council Chairman Fred Stubbert, D-Ward 1.

“I do,” Massey replied.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Stubbert said, to which Councilor John O’Donnell, D-Ward 5, retorted: “Well, more expensive.”

A memo from Massey to Mayor Karen Heck and councilors, dated July 29, says the cost for a 2014 SUV is $24,780, compared to a 2014 Chevy Caprice costing $23,859.

“Although the SUV is approximately $900 more, I anticipate a much higher trade-in price for the SUVs compared to the Chevy Caprice,” his memo says.

Jibryne Karter III, who is running for the Ward 6 council seat currently held by Dana Bushee, asked Massey if it would be safe to continue repairing cruisers scheduled for replacement, rather than buy new. Massey said that after a vehicle has 100,000 miles, it starts to need major repairs such as a transmission, rear end or engine replacement.

“Once you get at 100,000 miles on a cruiser it starts to be the issue of, what does it cost to be on the road?” he said.

Massey and Bushee noted that cruisers, unlike many vehicles, do a lot of stop-and-go driving and idling and have multiple drivers.

“These aren’t regular cars that are parked all day or on the highway,” Bushee said.

Massey’s memo recommends the city transition from cruisers to Ford utility police interceptor SUVs, which also have more space to install bracket mounts for radios and computers. The SUVs, the memo says, have 3.7L V6 engines rated for 16 miles per gallon in the city and 21 on the highway.

“In comparison, our current Chevy Caprice police cruisers average 14 mpg city and 23 mpg highway,” the memo says. “The SUVs are AWD (all-wheel drive) vehicles providing better traction and handling when driving in inclement weather compared to our current rear-wheel-drive Chevy Caprices.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]

Twitter: @AmyCalder17

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