Despite a last-ditch effort to stop it, East Washington Borough Council has put pen to paper to purchase a Tesla Model 3 for a police vehicle.
Council had voted 5-2 to approve the purchase in June.
The two council members who opposed it, Dan Bird and Doug Corwin, made a motion to rescind the approval at Monday’s meeting.
“I was personally responsible,” Bird said of the attempt to stop the purchase. “I was concerned about the safety features of a Tesla compared to a regular Ford SUV.”
Bird’s efforts were unsuccessful, however, as the vote fell along the same 5-2 lines, and council President Maryann Weinstein signed the purchase order for the Tesla.
The cost of the Tesla is more than $56,000, compared to the borough’s other option of a Ford Interceptor Explorer SUV for about $42,000.
Proponents of the purchase believe the higher price will be offset by savings in fuel and maintenance.
Council member Kent James said that since it is an electric vehicle, it doesn’t require oil changes.
“There is no exhaust system to go bad. There is no fuel pump. All these things that could go bad in a regular vehicle, the electric vehicles don’t have,” James said.
Bird takes issue with certain repairs needing to be done by a certified Tesla dealer, the closest one being in Cranberry, meaning the borough would have to take the car out of Washington County if something goes wrong.
James contends that is not necessarily true, as most regular maintenance, such as inspections and tire alignments, can be done locally. He added that even Tesla-specific issues may not require a trip to Cranberry.
“They have a team that will come to you for some repairs,” James said. “While it’s theoretically possible we would have to take it to Cranberry to get it repaired, that’s unlikely.”
Police Chief David Bradley does not think the concerns raised by the two dissenting members of council are significant issues, but said that ultimately, his department just needs another vehicle.
The East Washington Police Department has 15 part-time police officers and has one car.
“We were in desperate need of a second vehicle. To me, it didn’t matter what vehicle it was as long as it has all-wheel drive and is something we could use 12 months out of the year,” Bradley said.
Bradley said when the department receives the vehicle, which could take about eight months, they plan to host a “show and tell” to alleviate concerns the community may have about the purchase.
“We’ll take it down to the park and have people look at it. Hopefully that will end some of the concerns,” Bradley said.
Those in favor of the purchase also pointed to the higher resale value for Tesla cars compared to other vehicles.
Mayor Demond Dixon viewed that as a plus, if they ultimately find the Tesla is not suitable for police work.
“We’ll get something that will get the job done,” Dixon said.