New MPD propane car stands out in community

Posted June 26, 2013 at 2:40 pm

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PHOTO: The new Monticello Police car may look a little different, but it’s what’s underneath the hood that matters. The new car is run on propane, making it more cost effective to drive and maintain. (Photos by Kim Brooks)

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PHOTO: The propane tank inside the trunk of the new MPD car allows the car to run on propane and/or gasoline (if needed). This new idea came about after the MPD received a free conversion kit as a test. Smith said the new car runs the same as the rest of the fleet.

 

By Kim Brooks, Express Editor

There’s a new car running around Monticello. Depending on the situation, you may or may not be in a position to sneak a peak.

In early April, Monticello Police Chief Britt Smith approached the City Council about a new opportunity the department was offered by Frank Yanda through AmeriGas. Yanda was offering the MPD a free propane conversion kit to try out. Smith explained another police force in Iowa applied for a grant as part of the Clean Air Act, but didn’t follow through with the project.

“Frank told me there was one free kit available,” Smith said, as the funding was already in place. “I already did the research and was well-versed on propane, so I jumped at it.”

The free kit, a $6,800 value, had to be installed in a Dodge Charger. While the MPD didn’t have a Dodge on the current fleet, they were able to purchase one in a timely manner for around $25,000. Smith said they were a few months early in purchasing a new car anyway, as the department was up for a new purchase in July.

Between the purchase and conversion, Smith estimates it only took about a month before the new car was in their hands and ready for the road.

“AmeriGas was offering the program as part of their public safety program,” Smith explained. He said public safety entities, such as police departments, are trying out the propane conversions before they hit the mainstream public market.

Before the decision was made and presented to the City Council, Smith certainly did his homework and met with Yanda and representatives from AmeriGas to learn more about the program and what it would entail.

“Yanda reached out to us and talked it up,” he said. “We had several meetings together.”

Smith then took a test drive in a demonstration vehicle “to see it in action,” as he put it.

“It’s definitely cost-effective for the city,” he said. Compared to gas prices, Smith figured his department could save close to $12,000 a year on gas with propane vehicles.

“It’s half the cost-savings at the pump,” he said.

Propane vehicles also run cleaner, meaning fewer maintenance calls. “There’s less carbon build-up, extending the oil life over the course of a year,” Smith explained. “The engine lasts a lot longer.”

In just driving the new propane police car, Smith said you really couldn’t tell the difference. He noted that it burns less while running at low speeds and when idle, which is perfect for patrolling in a small town like Monticello. The idea is to utilize the new car for nighttime patrol.

“It’s out and running,” Smith said.

The neat thing about this new car, aside from the huge cost-savings, is that it is one of the only propane police cars in the State of Iowa! Smith said the movement started on the East Coast and is slowly making its way across the country.

With an AmeriGas location in Monticello, the MPD is able to fill up locally thanks to an agreement with the company. The officers also went through some training offered by AmeriGas on proper use of the fueling dispenser and safety precautions.

The new car is white with black graphics, a trend Smith prefers. He said he’s hoping to transition the fleet to white and black as they move forward.

As for whether the new propane car is a huge benefit, Smith said time will tell, but he’s optimistic.

“We need to see what the stats show,” he said. They are currently compiling figures to track the cost savings.

“Costs go up every year,” Smith said on gas and goods. “And they’ll continue to climb, even as the city still needs to purchase things.” This new propane-run police car will no doubt be a huge cost-savings for the city, with the same level of service for the department.

“There’s already been a lot of positive feedback from the city and community,” Smith said as he showed off the new car at Monti in Motion a few weeks ago. “There’s a lot of optimism.”

Smith said with word spreading about the project, police departments in Dubuque, Marion and Maquoketa have been inquiring about the idea.

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