Southampton Town to Lease Electric Mini-Coopers

Posted on 11 June 2009

Southampton Town residents might soon see town employees whizzing down the streets of Southampton in electric Mini Cooper cars. Councilwoman Anna Throne-Holst, who drives a Mini Cooper herself, was first approached by the company, owned by the BMW group, to participate in their “Mini E” pilot program, allowing the town to test the endurance of the electric versions of these characteristically compact vehicles.
During a special board meeting on Friday, June 5, Throne-Holst informed the board that the Mini Cooper company offered the town the use of up to five electric cars for one year. The town in turn would pay a $120 annual lease for each car, but Throne-Holst added that the company would oversee the maintenance for the vehicles. According to the company, the cars travel between 100 to 150 miles on a single charge.
“If we participate as a municipality, we could add some cars to our fleet and [perhaps] take other cars off the road,” said Throne-Holst. “This will help us see how we can move this kind of technology forward.”
“Would [the company] give any consideration to loaning these five cars to cash strapped residents to do the same type of program?” countered Councilman Chris Nuzzi.
Throne-Holst explained that Mini Cooper is targeting municipalities to participate in this program because of the extensive liability insurance held by government bodies. If the town signs onto the project they will follow the lead of several other municipalities, including New York City, which added 10 “Mini E”s to their fleet in January.
“We shouldn’t do this as an advertisement for mini … This will help reduce our costs for this year,” said Throne-Holst, noting the cost savings associated with the project.
“We do have a few cars in our fleet used by various department heads that ought to be replaced. Some have 150,000 plus miles on them,” said Throne-Holst during a later interview. “This way we could put the ‘Mini E’s to use instead and delay the purchasing of new vehicles.”
She added that town comptroller Tamara Wright is going to conduct a cost savings analysis on the project. The town has a signed memorandum of understanding, said Throne-Holst, and she expects the cars will be delivered sometime this month.

Discussion of the Mini Cooper pilot program offered a much needed lighter note to a meeting dominated by discussion against a proposed piece of legislation coming out of Suffolk County. The county is looking to divert funds from the County Drinking Water Protection Program, which is one of the county’s main revenue sources for land preservation said legislator Jay Schneiderman, to use for property tax relief in the coming three years.
“This legislature determines that in assessing the difficult choices that must be made to maintain the county’s fiscal stability, this legislature cannot treat any program as a ‘sacred cow,’” reported the county in a draft of the law.
According to town supervisor Linda Kabot, in 2007 county residents voted to continue using funds from this program for land purchases until 2030.
“This is ill advised and breaking faith with the voters. We stand in opposition,” declared Kabot.
“This program is the main way we purchase land,” reported Schneiderman. “We are one of the most vital areas for preservation in terms of critical habitat.”
The legislation would have a direct impact on the town’s purchasing power. Recently, the board has discussed focusing their CPF monies on debt repayment and the creation of a rainy day fund. Additional land purchases in the town will most likely have to be made in partnership with the county.
“If the county doesn’t have any money to buy land then it can’t partner with the town,” noted Schneiderman, during an interview.

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