NANTICOKE – Two area police departments received nearly $80,000 in grants to purchase patrol vehicles through a federal program for small town and rural communities.
Nanticoke and Plymouth each were awarded the funds through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Each municipality will buy a sport utility vehicle and car for its department and replace aging vehicles. Nanticoke received $38,400 and $38,660 went to Plymouth from the USDA's Rural Development Community Facilities program.
"They are much needed and our department is well deserving" of the funds, said Nanticoke Mayor Joseph Dougherty during a press conference Friday morning outside the city's fire headquarters on East Ridge Street.
One of the vehicles, a 2013 Ford Escape, was parked in front of the fire station.
The city expects to receive a new Ford Taurus soon and replace "what we need to" among its four marked vehicles, Police Chief William Shultz said.
Plymouth also has ordered its vehicles to upgrade the pool of four marked vehicles.
"This was an unexpected pleasure but it's much needed. Our cruisers are in very poor condition," Mayor Dorothy Petrosky said.
"Our cruisers are getting a little old. This is coming at a great time. We've been having problems in Plymouth, which we're working at correcting, and this money is sorely, sorely needed," Plymouth Council President Frank Coughlin added.
He thanked the federal and state lawmakers who helped with the funding. The USDA provides 55 percent of the cost of the vehicles and the municipalities are responsible for the other 45 percent.
Tom Williams, a Nanticoke native and USDA Rural Development state program director, acknowledged people would question why the department is involved with police cars.
"The Rural Development agency is the prime financer of rural infrastructure in Pennsylvania and in the country," Williams said.
In the state the USDA program provided about $40 million in funding this year, and most of it was in the form of loans to hospitals and schools, he explained. There was only $250,000 available in grants and the focus was on emergency responders and police departments that applied for the grants.
"We try to concentrate on the smaller grants in communities and Nanticoke and Plymouth -- certainly all municipal governments in Pennsylvania right now -- I think are stressed," Williams said.
Jerry Lynott, a Times Leader staff writer, can be contacted at 570 829-7237.