Council authorized the police department to pursue the purchase of four cruisers. The price is about $131,000. The 2013 Ford sedan interceptor is a Ford Taurus. Police Chief Gregory A. Foresman said the cars are expected to have better fuel mileage compared to the Crown Victoria models. The vehicles are all-wheel drive and have more horsepower than their predecessor, he said.
They would be bought from Sunbury Motors and there would be about a little more than $4,000 left over to be returned to the budget, he indicated.
A crash involving a police cruiser and a private vehicle at West Fourth and Walnut streets early Easter morning has led to the department most likely having to ask council for a fifth vehicle but that will be made in another request and another time, Foresman said.
In tracking the inflow and outflow of the police vehicles, the city finance committee earlier this week determined the net effect is that the city police has taken off-line five vehicles and replaced them with four. A Ford Expedition, a type of sport-utility vehicle, was transferred to the Williamsport Bureau of Fire, which paid $7,500 for the vehicle, according to City Fire Chief C. Dean Heinbach.
Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said he would like to see discussion whether to transfer a police car to the mayor's office for use of individuals within that department. Campana suggested Justin Simpson, director of recreation, could use a vehicle, especially during the heavy summer months when Simpson oversees camps and other programs.
Council President Bill Hall said he has advocated that a car be available for use by the mayor's office - not solely for the mayor - but for those who need it. Hall said a vehicle with 100,000 miles - which used to be considered high mileage - is not any longer.
It is not unusual for vehicles to reach 200,000 or higher mileage, he said, asking Foresman, for budget purposes, whether it could be determined how much a car would cost in terms of maintenance, tire replacement, and registration.
Hall said he asked that so the city could come up with a cost of operating the vehicle and add that to the department budget. "You could move a car to the department and set up a budget," he said.
Councilman N. Clifford "Skip" Smith asked about the feasibility of transferring a vehicle to departments, such as recreation. Smith noted Simpson uses his own vehicle for city business and does not receive remuneration for gas mileage.
Councilman Don Noviello, who shared responsibility for the annual Soap Box Derby in July, said Simpson was run "ragged" before and during the event.
Williamson also appreciated how much Simpson does for the city, but he also said it was the administration's intention to bring the recreation department back to City Hall this year. In that context, Williamson said, part of the reason for council approving that was the overall budget was not to see any increase in expenses.
Williamson also said any discussion about transferring or moving cars from one department to another would better be served, as Campana also said, during the budget deliberation.
Councilwoman Liz Miele asked Foresman to what extent it was viable to pass any vehicles down to the codes department. Foresman said the police cruisers are used "pretty hard," but that for the other departments, which typically operated 9 to 5 hours, the wear and tear on them might be less than what the police encounter.
Councilman Randall J. Allison asked Foresman whether there are any vehicles in the police department that can run on compressed natural gas.
Foresman said there was not enough compressed natural gas stations around, but said he was sure there are police departments where the fuel source is being tested on vehicles for law enforcement use.