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Armored vehicle on the way for Galax

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By April Wright, Reporter

The armored vehicle that the Galax Police Department is slated to receive in November could have been used to get some people out of the cold during a fire at an independent living complex in Hillsville in January, Galax Police Chief told city council on Monday.

That's just one example of how the vehicle could be used.

Clark said it could have been used to extract individuals from two high-risk search warrant executions in the area, such as the hostage crisis at the Wytheville Post Office in December.

The chemical-, biological-, radiological-, nuclear- and explosive-resistant vehicle is not quite as big as an ambulance, he said, but is able to hold up to nine people.

This $251,792 vehicle comes as part of a statewide package of $4.9 million in Homeland Security funds.

The police department will also buy radio equipment and protective equipment for the Galax Tactical Response Team with the same grant funds.

Gov. Bob McDonnell announced in March that State Homeland Security Program grants to be given to police and sheriffs’ departments across Virginia would be used to acquire equipment crucial to fighting crime and deterring terrorist acts.

Clark said this is not a grant that his department applied for. It was a decision made by the Law Enforcement Command Advisory Group and Department of Criminal Justice Services.

Even though the armored vehicle will be housed in Galax, it will be deployed to other localities in the region when needed. It is one of three that will be located in Southwest Virginia, including one in Roanoke and another in Bristol.

Features include explosive gas detection, radiation detection, camera and intercom systems and a battery charger device. Clark said each vehicle in this region would be equipped differently to complement each other.

“None of us could afford every option,” said Clark. “Our vehicle complements their specialized equipment [in the other two localities], and their vehicles complement ours. Our vehicle will have capabilities that their vehicle won’t have.”

Since the tactical response teams in the New River Valley train together quarterly, Clark said, if Galax should ask from assistance from Pulaski County, for example, their officers would know the same tactics as their counterparts in Galax.

The grant specifies that the vehicle will come from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Responder Knowledge Base of approved equipment, said Clark.

Galax Police Capt. James Cox met with Lenco Armored Vehicles manufacturer, based in Massachusetts, and examined and configured the vehicles.

Lenco, Clark said, is the provider that is approved by FEMA and meets the specifications of the grant. No other company fulfilled the criteria.

Galax City Council approved a sole source designation for Lenco Armored Vehicles in the amount of $251,792.