Starting this spring, the patrol cars of the Saratoga County Sheriff’s Department will show up better against a snowbank.
White will be out, and black will be in.
New patrol car colors are the latest change new Sheriff Michael Zurlo is bringing to a department that’s been change-resistant on many fronts for years.
Zurlo has already started an email system, gotten the department communicating with the public on Twitter and is setting up a website. He’s also hired new deputies and appointed new leadership, as you’d expect with the departure of Jim Bowen after four decades in office.
While changing the colors might sound cosmetic, Zurlo said there’s a safety factor, since the new design will feature night-reflective markings. With the reflective markings, it will be easier to see at night, Zurlo said.
Over the next four years, the familiar color scheme of a white vehicle with red lettering will give way to a black vehicle with gold lettering. The change will be phased in as replacements are purchased for the department’s 42 marked patrol vehicles. The first black cars — eleven Chevy Impalas — should arrive in May.
The new cars will be spread throughout the county, so for a few years, residents should get used to seeing two different kinds of cars on the roads.
The white and red color scheme, which does not include reflective materials, has been used since the early 1980s. Zurlo said other sheriff’s departments around the state are switching to the same darker color system, citing the vehicles’ improved visibility.
“We look at it as a safety issue for our guys at night,” Zurlo said.
State police use a two-tone blue pattern on their patrol vehicles, with reflective pinstriping.
While Zurlo has the authority to make the change, Clifton Park town Supervisor Phil Barrett, chairman of the county Public Safety Committee, said he was glad supervisors are being informed in advance.
“It’s important for supervisors to know,” he said. “They may get some questions if the color scheme is changed.”
Even changes as innocuous-sounding as vehicle colors have been known to make some people — particularly the elderly — nervous. For the rest of us, the lit-up light bars are still going to look the same in the rearview mirror.
It’s doubtful any argument is going to succeed in keeping the Mount McGregor state prison open now that the Cuomo administration has decided to close it, but county officials have come up with a new one.
They plan to argue to the state Department of Corrections that the county is forced to hold state prison parole violators at the county jail, sometimes for months at a time, until the state prison system takes them back. The county lockup currently has 14 parole violators, and the cost of holding them is in the vicinity of $100 per day.
“That cost is being borne entirely by the county,” said Saratoga Springs city Supervisor Matthew Veitch. “It’s really another unfunded mandate.”
The state used to reimburse the counties for housing those prisoners, but stopped during the 2009-10 state budget crisis.
Veitch heard at a recent state Association of Counties meeting that the number of parole violators held in local jails equals the 1,000 prison beds being lost this year due to closures, including that of Mount McGregor.
“It’s ironic, to some degree,” Veitch remarked.