By Alex Lippa
---- — PLAISTOW — There are some new vehicles humming around Plaistow this summer. Both the police and fire departments recently acquired new Humvees, which have immediately been put into service.
“We are going to use them for any major events which happen in town,” police Lt. William Baldwin said. “This enables us to bring more resources than we could in a cruiser.”
The town acquired the Humvees through the 1033 Military Surplus Program. The program loans excess military items to law enforcement on the condition they are returned when the town no longer has use for them. Four Humvees were loaned to Plaistow, two to be used for surplus parts. The military is able to recall the equipment at any time.
“When you give it back to the military, they don’t care if it’s fully functioning or in a scrap square,” Selectman Daniel Poliquin said. “They just want it back so their inventory will show they have this serial.”
Since 1990, the Department of Defense has transferred $4.2 billion worth of property through the program. Items deemed as surplus by military services are turned over to the Defense Logistics Agency, which puts the items in a database.
Once in the database, municipalities can search through the items and make requests through their state coordinator. In New Hampshire, that’s State Police Maj. Russell Conte.
“Equipment is provided on a first come, first serve basis,” said Michelle McCaskill, spokeswoman for the Defense Logistics Agency.
In addition to the Humvees, the town also received two portable generators and a stationary generator, which will be used at the Public Safety Complex. The value of all the items received is a little more than $100,000.
Fire Chief John McArdle said his department’s Humvee won’t be used as a first response vehicle, but they will still put it to good use.
“At this juncture, we have been using the (Humvee) in a utility manner,” McArdle said. “We don’t anticipate it being used for a first response vehicle. If we have members taking a class, they can use it and save us the mileage we would otherwise pay for their personal vehicle.”
McArdle said the Humvee would eventually be fitted with radio and basic equipment for certain emergency responses.
“Additionally, if we have some non-emergent business to conduct, such as inspections, checking smoke detectors or getting maintenance items from a local store, we can use this vehicle instead of a piece of apparatus,” McArdle said.
Baldwin said a major benefit is the vehicles’ ability to be driven in all conditions.
“During any major storm, this makes it a lot easier to get around in,” he said. “During any emergencies or major disasters, we can utilize them for that.”
Baldwin said the police Humvee saw its first action just last week.
“We used it to help track a suspect who had gotten away from us,” he said.
The vehicles the town has are anywhere from three to six years old, but they all have less than 100 miles on them.
When the town received the Humvees, some major work had to be done before they could be used. But with help from local businesses, the vehicles were unveiled at Old Home Day last month.
Poliquin Welding and Fabrication installed the hard tops on the fire vehicle, while Blinn Auto Body Shop and Kelly Graphics helped transform the exterior to look like other Plaistow emergency vehicles.
Plaistow isn’t the only town using Humvees. Newton, with a population of just 4,661, received five Humvees through the surplus program a year and a half ago, but have used them sparingly.
“We pretty much reserve their use,” Newton police Chief Larry Streeter said. “We’ve used them in two major storms so far.”
Streeter said the Humvee will eventually replace the town’s 2002 Ford Explorer as the department’s all purpose vehicle.
Poliquin said the best part of the program is that it doesn’t cost the town any money.
“There is no direct cost to the taxpayer,” he said. “The upgrades were donated and the funds were expended through the general line item.”