Girard council agrees to buy 6 cruisers; mayor plans veto

About $27,000 was spent on maintenance for the 12-car fleet in 2006.



GIRARD — City council has given the green light to buy six new police cars at a total cost of $150,000, despite the mayor’s pledge to veto the plan.

Council approved the appropriation Monday, 6-0 with Councilman Tom Siedler absent, despite Mayor James Melfi’s preference that new-vehicle purchases be limited to three.

Melfi has said he plans to veto any purchase above three cruisers — and the cruisers purchased may not be exactly what police have said they want.

Officers have complained of faulty breaks, leaking gas tanks and a host of other problems in the fleet of 12 vehicles, purchased in 1996. The vehicles could inhibit officers from pursuing criminals, Police Chief Frank Bigowsky has said.

And, repairs to the current fleet have been expensive. About $27,000 was spent on repairs and maintenance for the cars in 2006.

But the city had been battling with problems of its own. Girard entered 2008 in the black for the first time in nine years, with $100,000 in reserve and $200,000 in escrow, awaiting a Ohio Supreme Court ruling on the use of traffic cameras and fine money. Now, the township is facing the loss of its largest employer, Indalex Aluminum Solutions.

Council members set aside 2.4 percent of income tax revenue during the later half of 2007 to support upgrading of the cruisers. The city remains in state-designated fiscal emergency. Currently the city is operating at a negative balance, although the general fund is in the black, according to Auditor Sam Zirafi.

Bigowsky recommended V6 Dodge Chargers at $20,805 from Bob and Chuck Eddy Dodge and Jeep on Mahoning Avenue. He said he had surveyed other area police chiefs about their satisfaction with their cruisers and taken bids from competing dealers.

Council talked of maintaining the take-home arrangement with officers, while phasing out some of the oldest models. Cars in the fleet have recorded as many as 130,000 miles.

Bigowsky said that he is fairly confident that the department has six road-worthy vehicles.

“If we rotate officers in the same vehicle, each officer will drive differently, each will perform differently,” said Bigowsky. “If you rotate like that, you’re going to put more miles on them. The fact that were still driving 1991 Chevy Caprices is a testament to that.”

Council members moved to pass the cruiser legislation under emergency guidelines, allowing the plan to be acted on immediately.

“This was a pretty big purchase,” said Councilman Michael Costarella. “It obviously took a dozen years to pull this off.”

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