Township officials will unseal bids for the armored rescue vehicle requested by the Police Department on Wednesday, Feb. 13.
Township Council authorized the cancellation of a total of $550,000 of unused capital improvement funds, dating back to 2007, at its Jan. 28 meeting.
The township will use a portion of the canceled capital funds, which date as far back as 2007, to pay for the armored rescue vehicle. It will also use funds from drug forfeitures, officials have said.
The vehicle will cost about $250,000, according to Business Administrator Tom Cardis.
The Clerk's Office is scheduled to unseal the bids at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Clerk Rosemary DiJosie said. The bid event is open to the public.
Cardis said Tuesday he expects Council will move to reward a contract for the armored rescue vehicle at its Feb. 25 meeting.
The bulletproof police vehicle has been a hot topic of conversation in the township since Police Chief W. Harry Earle went to Council to discuss purchasing it back in early January.
Monday night's Council meeting was no different.
Michael Mortka, of Tilford Road, questioned how the armored rescue vehicle would assist police in serving high-risk warrants—a use he has heard offered by proponents of the vehicle's purchase.
"You're already out of the vehicle so it's not doing you a whole heck of a lot of good," he said.
"No, it would do a lot of good, because you can drive right up to the door," Deputy Police Chief David Harkins countered. "If an officer is hit, you can make a rescue by putting that piece of equipment between where the bullets are coming from and where the downed officer is."
Harkins later asserted the armored rescue vehicle is not tank, as several people have suggested at recent Council meetings.
"This is not a tank. This is the same level protection that an armored car driver drives around in that we see at banks every day," he said. "That's what it is. It's a vehicle. It's a truck that's built on a Ford F-550 body. The difference is the materials it's made out of are the only thing that's test and assured to stop bullets."
Harkins clarified comments he made on Jan. 14 regarding Camden County Sheriff's Department's availability to bring the county's armored rescue vehicle to incidents in Gloucester Township.
"We work hand in hand with the Camden County Sheriff's Department every day. They're our partners in public safety. And they are available 24 hours, seven days a week. If I misspoke...I meant that they are not working in patrol like our officers are working 24 hours, seven days a week. ... I don't want this perception that we have any issues. In no way did I intend to portray that we had any issues with the Sheriff's Department."
Council President Glen Bianchini again supported the purchase of the armored rescue vehicle during Monday's meeting.
"There are 37 towns in Camden County. One vehicle for 37 towns. Things happen so fast, it could be anywhere. With the things that are going on now, the recommendation of our experts—the police department, the chief, the deputy chief and others—we felt that it was the best to purchase, to be able to use our own and take care of our own business with that vehicle."
As Harkins noted, to a police officer involved in a shootout or standoff with an armed suspect or suspects, "minutes feel like hours."