Board eyes purchase of two police vehicles

City needs to get more miles from vehicles, Miguel asserts.

By EVAN YOUNG

The Crestwood Board of Aldermen was scheduled this week to consider final approval of an ordinance authorizing the purchase of two police vehicles.

The ordinance was up for a second reading at the board meeting Tuesday — after the Call went to press.

Aldermen voted 5-2 last month on the first reading of the ordinance. Ward 3 Aldermen Paul Duchild and Jerry Miguel were opposed.

If the legislation is approved this week, the city would purchase two 2011 Ford Crown Victoria police vehicles from Joe Machens Ford in Columbia for $22,696 each, for a total cost of $45,392.

The new cars would replace a 2003 Crown Victoria with 67,755 miles and a 1998 Ford Explorer with 59,272 miles, according to Police Chief Mike Paillou.

One of the new vehicles would replace the 2003 Crown Victoria in the traffic-control division; the other would be assigned to primary patrol, according to Lt. Kevin Avery. Avery noted at the May 24 board meeting that the police fleet currently comprises 14 vehicles, some of which run a minimum of 12 hours per day.

Paillou wrote in a memo last month that the purchase “will eliminate all police vehicles from the 1990s.” He also stated the fleet has been reduced 30 percent since 2006.

The board voted in May 2007 to enter into a lease-purchase agreement with Ford Municipal Financing to finance the purchase of 10 police vehicles for a total amount of $227,573.07.

Last year, aldermen were presented with a vehicle acquisition plan prepared by Avery that called for the purchase of eight new Crown Victorias in 2011 and the purchase of another eight police vehicles in four to six years based on the mileage and maintenance needs of the fleet at that time.

However, the board voted unanimously last August to purchase police vehicles year-to-year based on need.

The initial draft of the 2011 budget included $69,000 for the purchase of three new police vehicles. That number was reduced to two vehicles with the retirement of Sgt. John Wunderlich in March, Paillou said.

But while the two cars are budgeted for 2011, Miguel believes the city should not purchase police vehicles this year.

“Certainly the police service is excellent. I have no problem with the work performed by the department. I think they perform it very well,” Miguel said during the May 24 board meeting, but added, “What it comes down to is that there are a number of intangible issues in favor of replacing the vehicles, but when it comes down to items of substance — tangible items — it really comes out lacking as far as the police vehicles are concerned, at least in my opinion.”

The alderman contended Crestwood should be getting more miles out of its police fleet, which he said has an average of 46,000 miles per vehicle. When the city does go out for new police vehicles, it should consider a forthcoming model by Ford that reportedly will have 25-percent greater fuel efficiency, saving the city thousands of dollars in fuel costs over the life of the vehicles, Miguel said.

“It’s hard for me to justify buying a Crown Vic today when right on the horizon we’ve got a vehicle that Ford claims is going to be 25 percent more fuel efficient,” he said.

“… With an average fleet of 46,000 miles and with the proposal to replace two vehicles — one with less than 60,000 and the other with less than 70,000 miles — again we’re leaving a lot of miles on those vehicles,” Miguel added. “I just don’t feel we can afford to trade in police vehicles when they have 60,000 or 70,000 miles again when other municipalities are able to get 120,000 and more.

“… Right now we have a fleet of Crown Vics … My guess is if we proceed with these purchases today, five years from now they will be the dinosaurs — the gas-guzzling dinosaurs — and somebody’s going to be here five years from now asking who approved these vehicles in the first place. Again, I think the service from the department is outstanding, but I think we need to get better usage from our assets.”

Ward 2 Alderman Chris Pickel indicated the city should stop putting off needed purchases.

“Ford’s promising these cars; we don’t know what they’re going to cost,” he told Miguel. “You have to assume that they’re going to be probably considerably more expensive than what we’re looking at now.

“And I just think that if you always defer purchases in the hope or expectation that something newer or better is going to come down the road, you’re never going to spend any money … In the meantime, our infrastructure in the city continues to deteriorate … I think we have to take the recommendations of our experts.”

While she has heard numerous times that the city doesn’t need police cars, Ward 1 Alderman Mimi Duncan said, “I just always think that my job here as an alderman and what I feel I’m supposed to do is to look at the recommendation that our professionals make and weigh them and see how they impact the bottom line of the city. I guess I also put weight on our law enforcement professionals and I don’t think Alderman Miguel is a law enforcement professional. I also look at them for fleet management expertise; I don’t think Alderman Miguel has managed a fleet. And I think I am going to have to go with saying yes, let’s do this …

“Let’s go with the recommendations of our professionals that do an excellent job, and I think that’s my oversight of what I should do as an alderman.”

Ward 4 Alderman Deborah Beezley said, “Public safety is of paramount importance. All we need is to not listen to our experts and have one event where our car breaks down and someone has been shot, and we can’t be there. Or there is a gun being held to someone’s head, and we can’t be there in time. So I think we’ve got people with an expertise on our staff. They have communicated situations to us and I think we need to listen.”

Also of significant importance is police officers’ comfort and safety while in the vehicles, Ward 4 Alderman John Foote said.

“If you’re going to jam somebody of any size into a small, compact little fleet vehicle, sit them out there for long hours, I’m not entirely sure you’re doing that person a favor, and his alertness may suffer. So I would tend to lean toward the advice of our people who serve in these cars,” he said.

“And it’s not that I’m trying to throw money out the window but if we don’t have an efficient force, what’s the use of having a car that gets 50 miles per gallon?”