The city manager loves it, the police love it, and it's saving money for the people of Parchment. But the 2008 Toyota Prius hybrid purchased last fall to serve as a police patrol car has stirred up at least some anti-import feeling in the 1.5 square miles of this small southwestern Michigan town.
The fires are being energetically stoked by one Stu Smith, who doesn't live in Parchment but commutes through it. "That's just the kind of thing that Ann Arbor would do," he told the Kalamazoo Gazette, referring to the progressive college town west of Detroit. "But Parchment, which has been historically a blue-collar town? That's just wrong."
Smith claims he's received "hundreds" of letters of support, after he wrote a scathing letter published last fall in the Gazette. He accuses the town of "taking food away from people I work with every day" in the automotive supply industry by purchasing the Prius. For good measure, he tosses in a further litany of perceived Prius problems: The back seat is too small for arrestees, it would be "useless" in a high-speed chase, it cost too much to begin with, and parts and repairs will be "difficult".
Parchment city manager Dennis Durham patiently rebuts Smith's points. He notes that the town's police don't engage in high-speed chases within its slightly-more-than-1-square-mile area, and says he's only gotten a couple of phone calls. He also says that indeed, the 46-mile-per-gallon Prius is saving the town money. The town evaluated the 2008 Ford Escape Hybrid small crossover too, he says, but the Prius turned out to be a much better fit for the Parchment Police Department's needs.
Police Sergeant Brad Fall, who drives the disputed hybrid, calls it "a great patrol car for small communities" like his. And, addressing a chronic Michigan concern, he notes it hasn't gotten stuck in the snow once.
The money quote from angry anti-Prius crusader Smith: "Being 'green' is great, but is that an issue in Michigan?" Sigh.