A City Council committee will consider whether to recommend approval of an agreement to assist New London in purchasing more energy efficient vehicles.
The council unanimously agreed to send the proposed agreement to the Public Works Committee for review after it appeared on Monday's agenda. The proposal would have Mayor Daryl Finizio enter into an agreement with the Connecticut Department of Transportation to acquire a $161,650 grant as part of the Connecticut Clean Fuel Program.
The agreement says the grant funds would contribute $12,000 each toward the purchase of seven Ford transit vehicles, $17,450 each toward the purchase of two Ford F-350 cab and chassis, $26,250 toward a Ford F-550 cab and chassis, and $16,500 toward a Ford F-250 cab and chassis. Each vehicle would be powered by compressed natural gas.
Tim Hanser, director of the Department of Public Works, said the seven vehicles are assigned to various municipal departments. They include a 1998 Chevrolet Venture used by the Information Technology Department, a 2001 Dodge Intrepid used by Parking Enforcement, two 2001 Dodge Stratus vehicles used by the Office of Development and Planning and Building Inspection Division, a 1998 Ford Taurus used by Public Works Administrative and Engineering Divisions, a 1998 Ford Ranger used by Public Works Buildings Maintenance Division, and a 1995 Jeep Cherokee used by Recreation Department Administration.
Hanser said the department is exploring options for a compressed natural gas fueling station. He said the most appealing option at this point is a timed fill station, which refuels vehicles overnight.
"I am hopeful that the city chooses to pursue CNG technology," said Hanser. "It costs significantly less than gasoline or diesel, burns cleaner, and causes less wear and tear on the vehicles engines. It is also a domestic fuel, with projections that there are sufficient supplies for the next 100 years."
The Connecticut Clean Fuel Program has a goal of improving the state's air quality by encouraging the use of vehicles with alternative energy, clean fuels, or diesel retrofit technologies. The grant would go toward covering the "incremental cost" of each vehicle purchase, or the purchase cost of a clean fuel vehicle minus the cost of a conventional vehicle of comparable make and model.
If approved, New London would have to expend the grant funds by the end of 2013. The city would also have to meet a number of conditions including keeping the vehicles insured and well-maintained and allowing the state to inspect the vehicles. The city would also have to provide the DOT with information on the vehicles' mileage and whether they are still in operation for 100,000 miles of use or up to 48 months after the vehicles are put in operation or equipped with clean fuel technology, whichever benchmark is reached first.
The grant funds would be the only money contributed by the DOT toward the vehicle purchases, with additional costs borne by the city. The city would not receive the funds unless the vehicles are purchased. The DOT would reimburse the city for the incremental cost included on the invoice, and would pay only up to the approved amount if the incremental cost exceeds that approved by the Connecticut Clean Fuel Program.
Hanser said in August that the city plans to convert all general government vehicles and five in the Department of Public Works to compressed natural gas. He also estimated that $3.2 million in vehicle upgrades are needed to city vehicles.
In September, the City Council approved a $1 million bond toward the replacement of Public Works vehicles considered crucial: three 1987 F-800 snowplows as well as a 1994 Ford Vac-Con truck and two 1990 Stenco trailers. Last month, the council approved a $353,845.22 contract to purchase two of the new snowplows from Freightliner of Hartford.