Leonia Borough officials, staff and community partners unveiled today a 2019 fully-electric Chevy Bolt to be used for various police functions as well as for general fleet purposes. The vehicle, which was purchased from nearby Paramus Chevrolet with a grant from Sustainable Jersey funded by the Gardinier Environmental Fund, will perform various police functions, including traffic control, parking enforcement, community relations, and administrative functions, as well as be available for Borough-wide staff to use as the Borough’s first fleet vehicle.
Borough Administrator Alex Torpey, who led the effort to secure the grant and make this purchase commented, “It’s our responsibility as a government to use our purchasing power for good. Not only will this vehicle (and more like it) save taxpayer money by reducing long-term maintenance costs, but it produces no local tailpipe emissions and contributes to a reduction of our carbon footprint, especially as electrical generation technology continues to improve.”
Electric Vehicle chargers were installed at the Leonia Police Department Headquarters for the time being only for use with this vehicle. But the Borough is adding public chargers too. According to Torpey the Borough also won a grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to install two additional EV chargers, one at the Swim Pool and the other in Leonia’s Central Business District on Broad Ave, which will be available to residents and visitors alike.
This vehicle fits well into the environmentally conscious community in the Borough. Leonia has an active “Green Team” that is certified with Sustainable Jersey and very active Environmental Commission. The Borough recently made news by prohibiting polystyrene (styrofoam) containers, and is considering other initiatives such as a plastic bag ban, Pay-As-You-Throw garbage collection, and more. They have also created, in partnership with local high school students, a comprehensive online recycling guide for all types of household items. Volunteers using drop-boxes in municipal facilities have recycled more than 2,000 pounds of plastic bags in the last year, and officials are pursuing policies that would help retain and even expand the shade tree canopy. The Borough is also in the midst of major energy efficiency upgrades to almost all of its municipal facilities, which is estimated to not only save taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars over the next five years, but will reduce (an estimated) 171,568 pounds of CO2 Emissions annually as well as reduce the electric load annually by 112,874 KWH.
Council President Bill Ziegler commented, “Leonia has a proud history of being at the vanguard of environmental initiatives and this electric vehicle helps preserve our environment and save taxpayer dollars at the same time. A win all around.”
Borough officials also hope that using a fully-electric vehicle for public functions will not just communicate the Borough’s commitment to be more sustainable, but will help provide one more avenue that can be used to engage the public in conversations about how both parties can constantly improve their sustainability practices.
Further to these goals, after uncovering a technical rule in state finance law that makes it harder for municipalities to purchase a fully-electric sedan, versus a gasoline powered SUV for example, Administrator Torpey worked with state legislators and other non-profits and partners to successfully craft and get legislation introduced in the New Jersey Legislature that would lift the current prohibition on bonding for passenger vehicles, if the vehicle is powered by an alternative fuel source. Torpey and others believe that this rule change could make it possible for more local governments to use public dollars to help facilitate getting more electric vehicles on the road, and ideally encouraging US automakers to be more proactive about building electric vehicles for municipal and government uses, which could have major benefits for reducing our carbon footprint down the road. The legislation, sponsored by 27th District Assemblyman John McKeon, Chair of Financial Institutions and Insurance, A4424/S3025 is currently in committee, and has gained support from many individuals and organizations including ChargeEVC, the NJ League of Municipalities, and several others interested in seeing state finance rules be updated to allow local governments to direct public money towards more sustainable purchases and initiatives.
Torpey said, “Sometimes the best thing we can do in government is to get out of our own way. Through dozens of conversations with relevant stakeholders, no one seemed to believe this rule was important to keep or provided any value. So why not get rid of it? It’s one of the best things we can do: make a small, technical, non-political change that doesn't cost anyone anything, but significantly changes incentives such as to encourage government units to do something better, in this case purchase lower cost and more environmentally sustainable vehicles.”
About Sustainable Jersey
Sustainable Jersey is a non-profit that provides tools, training and financial incentives to support communities as they pursue sustainability programs. Currently, 80 percent or 450 of New Jersey’s 565 municipalities are participating in the municipal certification program and 323 school districts and 843 schools are participating in the Sustainable Jersey for Schools certification program. In 2019, Sustainable Jersey is celebrating its 10th Anniversary with a year-long program that will include special events to educate and engage the Sustainable Jersey community and create a vision for the future.
About Gardinier Environmental Fund
The Gardinier Environmental Fund is committed to conserving the Earth’s energy resources and enhancing renewable energy measures,” said Gene Wentzel, president, Gardinier Environmental Fund. “We are proud to stand alongside Sustainable Jersey, and to continue to fund worthy projects that support our mutual goals in New Jersey.