Winona Lake looks at grant money to buy Tesla police cars

Town Marshal Joe Hawn speaks to the Winona Lake Town Council Tuesday. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
By David Slone

WINONA LAKE — If awarded a grant, the Winona Lake Police Department could be going electric on about half of their vehicle fleet.

Town Marshal Joe Hawn told the Winona Lake Town Council Tuesday, “We have an opportunity to be able to apply for a grant. It’s through MACOG (Michiana Area Council of Governments). And it is for up to $200,000 but we would have to buy electric vehicles with this. That’s kind of the push for this. We looked at it. I think I would like to — with your approval – apply for this grant. MACOG really does all the work for us, they do all the updates and everything.”

If WLPD receives the grant, Hawn said that includes the outfit (lights and equipment) price as well, the vehicle, charging stations, “everything.” He said he was thinking of possibly applying for three vehicles with the grant, and maybe applying for the full $200,000 or more. MACOG told him it was OK to apply for more than the $200,000.

Hawn said everything would be covered 100% by the grant.

Councilman Barry Andrew asked him what kind of cars would they be buying.
“Teslas. Two Teslas and a Lightning I was looking at,” Hawn said.

“For you guys? To chase the bad guys?” Andrew asked. “Yes,” Hawn replied.
Councilwoman Ashley McGinnis asked if they would be replacing squad cars, and Hawn said yes.

Andrew said he didn’t know anything about Teslas except that they’re expensive. Hawn said they aren’t really that expensive.

“What’s the long-term impact financially on the town when it comes to these kind of vehicles because I honestly don’t know?” Andrew asked.

Hawn said he’s been in contact with the Bargersville Police Department that exclusively uses Teslas. “And they say, according to their chief of police down there, he says he saves $6,000 per year per vehicle on maintenance and gas as well. And that’s including the electrical costs as well. That’s what he says,” Hawn said.

He said they’re going to test drive some other vehicles because there’s also a Chevy Blazer that could be purchased with the grant. Hawn likes the Blazer and the Lightning because they do have the additional wiring for the police department and they’re geared for police a bit more. Bargersville swears by the Teslas for the police department, he said.

When Andrew asked what the maintenance was on the vehicles, Hawn said very little. “That’s where they save the money, because they said they don’t have to put brakes on them because when you put off the peddle it basically brakes for you,” Hawn said. 

Councilman Austin Reynolds said it’s regenerative braking.

Hawn said the grant opportunity will give them an idea if this is something Winona Lake wants to do or not.

Councilman Jim Lancaster asked if there was a deadline for the grant request. Hawn said yes, but MACOG will do all the work for the town, Hawn just has to tell them what kind of vehicles he wants.

If the town is successful in getting the grant, Lancaster asked if they have to move forward with it. He said he’d like some additional data on operating costs before they actually move forward because they’re talking about “fleet turnover.” Andrew said he’d also like more data because he doesn’t know enough about it.

Town Manager Craig Allebach said the grant application was due by Feb. 2. He said MACOG could come in next month and make a presentation.

Lancaster made a motion to approve the grant application, with the caveat more information is provided at next month’s council meeting either by MACOG in person or virtually. Andrew seconded the motion and it passed unanimously. Lancaster also asked for some current operating expenses at the January meeting of the vehicles that the WLPD will trade out.

Hawn also requested to purchase a new Tahoe for the WLPD at $42,410. The outfit – lights and equipment – for the vehicle will cost $14,397.66. He said all the cost was within the budget that was approved by the council for this year. The budget for the vehicle was $57,500.
Andrew asked if a vehicle was being traded in. Hawn said he sent pictures of the 2016 Ford Explorer reserve car in to Kelly Chevrolet to see if they will get money for it.
The council approved the new vehicle purchase.

In other business, the council:

• Approved a resolution to transfer $350,000 from the Economic Development Income Tax fund to the Tax Increment Financing fund. Clerk-Treasurer Heather James said they have the cash balance to support that, they just needed to make the transfer of those funds.

• Approved an additional appropriation for a total of $740,000. The appropriation was tabled at the council’s special meeting Dec. 11 due to questions and an error.

“I think it’s important just to start off by saying this ask is not for money that is needing to be spent. The money is already spent … We have had several expenses, and they have already been paid. The money that was budgeted has already been expended, so it’s just to put the money back into the appropriate place,” James said. 

She said it wasn’t the normal way they’d go about it, but they’re dealing with the situation that they have.

• Approved the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) ordinance on second reading. The ordinance was approved on first reading Nov. 21. A DORA allows municipalities after July 1 to designate an area to serve alcohol and then walk outside in a designated area with certain restrictions.

The ordinance lists Port Winona Wine & Market, Light Rail Café, Cerulean Restaurant and Boathouse Restaurant as retailer permittees who have submitted a completed application to the town to participate in the area.

• Approved the 2024 Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation agreement for $32,500, an increase of $5,000.

• Approved a resolution for Christmas bonuses for town employees. The resolution was tabled from the Dec. 11 special meeting. The council approved a $500 per employee Christmas bonus.

• Approved an ordinance on first and second reading to provide a 3% salary increase for 2024 for the town marshal and clerk-treasurer.

A resolution to give all other town employees a 3% raise for 2024 also was approved.
• Approved the town attorney and town engineer agreements as presented.

• Tabled a request by Merrywood Trailer Court to waive $3,000 to $4,000 in wastewater late fees. James wanted to get more information for herself and the council.

• Heard from Fire Chief Kevin Gelbaugh that the fire department had its Christmas party. The Fireman Service Award went to Carson Kintzel, and the Fireman of the Year award went to Kyle Boyer.

Gelbaugh also reported the support brackets that hold the “tank on the tank of the (tanker) truck” are getting worn and will need replaced at the start of the year for anywhere from $3,000 to $4,000.

Finally, he reported on the tornado siren at the fire station getting “extremely old.” It did activate the last time, but it had some issues. It’s going to need replaced. Alex Hall, from the Kosciusko County Community Foundation, said if he came talk to him he might be able to find him some funding for the siren replacement.

• Heard the Pajama Party Sale in The Village at Winona is 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Jan. 27.