War Vehicle Will Cost Keene Taxpayers

The federal Homeland Security department effectively gave the Keene police department an armored vehicle when the city council voted last year to accept a grant for the “Bearcat” vehicle. But the Bearcat will cost city taxpayers money.

A photo of the tank-like vehicle is at:

http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7009/6466601767_2a976fff9a.jpg

The Keene City Council voted on December 15, 2011 to accept a $285,933 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for a Bearcat G3, an armored security vehicle designed and manufactured by LENCO industries.

While the Bearcat is still in hibernation at the LENCO factory in Pittsfield, Mass., city officials and residents have expressed concerns in various settings regarding the Bearcat’s possible hidden costs.

Uses for the Bearcat in Keene include, “Pumpkin Festival and other dangerous situations,” Keene Police Chief Kenneth Meola said during a February 9, 2012 public hearing where over 100 residents voiced concerns about the new vehicle.

Potentially dangerous situations like hostage taking, shootouts and riots could mean potential repairs for the Bearcat, costing the town additional funds not covered by the federal grant.

According to LENCO’s website, the Bearcat G3 weighs over 16,000 pounds. “Although the Bearcat’s chassis is rated at 19,500 pounds, I’d still be worried about the brake rotors and pads failing earlier than usual,” Jay Coppo of J and J Auto Body of Troy, NH told the Valley Post.

Slowing the hefty Bearcat down could put extra wear and tear on the brakes. According to AMautoparts.com, a set of rotors and pads that would fit Keene’s Bearcat costs about $203, not counting the price of installation.

“I’d expect to change the brake pads and rotors on a vehicle like that every 80,000 miles or so,” Coppo said.

Replacing the Bearcat’s tires will cost Keene taxpayers about $2,000. Every time the Bearcat needs to be filled with diesel city taxpayers will fork over more than $160 at current prices.

The Bearcat isn’t environmentally friendly. It gets about 10 miles to the gallon.

Routine oil changes for the Bearcat are another cost to consider. “We normally charge around $80 for a vehicle like that at our shop,” Coppo said. “We usually recommend that an oil change is done every $8,000 miles, too.”

Under the hood, the Bearcat is a formidably expensive machine.
However, it is the windshield that could be the most-costly component of the Bearcat for Keene.

According to LENCO, a replacement windshield costs around $1,500. However, the question still looms, how is Keene going to pay for all of these fees associated with the Bearcat?

Although the U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant awarded Keene the funds for the vehicle, Meola said during the February 9 public hearing that the vehicle would be used “by the Western part of the state,” a move that would share both the accessibility and cost of upkeep for the vehicle.

According to Meola’s statements at the February 9 meeting, over 17 towns have pledged $100 per year to assist in financing the upkeep of the vehicle in exchange for access to the vehicle.
That’s $1,700 per year -- enough to pay for five new tires, one windshield, or about 10 trips to the pump for the Bearcat.

According to LENCO, each Bearcat leaves the factory with a 3-year warranty.

“The warranty covers factory defects. That means parts of the engine, axles, and tires – but not the windshield,” LENCO spokesman Lenny Light told the Valley Post.

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Freelance journalist Thomas MacLennan lives in Keene. He can be reached at ThomasMacLennan@gmail.com or by phone via www.ValleyPost.org/contact

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More information about the Keene anti-Bearcat movement is at:

www.ValleyPost.org/2012/01/31/dozens-say-no-war-vehicle-keene-police

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