Councilman: Mayor faces fight after cruiser veto

Council will have the chance to challenge the mayor’s veto Feb. 25.



GIRARD — Mayor James Melfi has made good on his promise to veto legislation that would have authorized the purchase of six new police cars.

Melfi issued the veto Wednesday, saying he could not give his consent to buy more than three vehicles given the city’s current financial condition.

“We lost our largest employer,” said Melfi, referring to Indalex Aluminum Solutions. “They will be closing in March. The city has not felt the effects of their closing, but we will.”

The veto came two days after city council voted to authorize up to $150,000 to buy six new cruisers. Council voted 6-0 for the expenditure.

The police department has complained of gas leaks, faulty brakes and other problems with their fleet of 12 police cars bought in 1996. Some of the cars have recorded more than 130,000 miles.

Melfi said he would consider allowing the purchase of three additional cruisers after the financial consequences of Indalex’s closure are clear. Girard is still in a delicate financial situation, said Melfi. This year was the first in nine that the city began without a deficit.

“Let’s buy three cars now,” he said. “Let’s wait and see how the year progresses.”

“I would rather have policemen in cold cruisers than no police.”

But Councilman Michael Costarella said about $50,000 has been reserved to buy the vehicles. He said this year’s revenues should provide for the rest.

The mayor should be prepared for a challenge, Costarella said. Council will have the chance to override the mayor’s decision at its Feb. 25 meeting. Five votes are needed to override the veto.

“There’s been enough support all along,” Costarella said. “I don’t think that’s going to waver.”

Melfi also said he took issue with a portion of council’s legislation that specified the cruisers purchased should be “full-size.”

At Monday’s council meeting, Police Chief Frank Bigowski stated his preference for the Dodge Charger. He said the full-size vehicle would be safest and most comfortable for the officers.

The amendment barred the city from purchasing the Chevrolet Impala — the cheapest option — Melfi said.

“[Council is] trying to tie the hands of the administration,” Melfi said.

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