By ALISSA SCOTT
Recorder News Staff
The Amsterdam Police Department's patrol fleet is in dire need of an upgrade, Sgt. Carl Rust told the Common Council in a Public Works Committee meeting Tuesday night.
"We'll take anything we can get right now," Rust said. "The police department has three vehicles being used 24-7. It's only a matter of time before we run into trouble with these vehicles, too. The two vehicles that we hope to get immediately will hopefully offset that problem."
As of now, the fleet consists of three working patrol cars, two of which have close to 100,000 miles and four SUVs, two of which were seized from drug dealers, and all of which are not suitable for transporting criminals.
"We're in a situation now where we're using our SUVs, our winter vehicles, for average daily patrol," Rust said, "so we're down four vehicles right now."
"And, unfortunately, the SUVs aren't equipped for prisoner transport," Amsterdam Police Chief Greg Culick added. "So if the officer gets a prisoner in the back, they could kick through, kick the officer in the head."
Rust and Culick requested funding to cover four 2013 Dodge Chargers to complete the force's full fleet. The APD hasn't received new police cars since 2008.
"You can't just go to a store a buy a police car," Culick said., "but, we found this company in Johnstown. They're fleet dealers and they are holding two cars for us based on what happens during this meeting."
Because the current cars have to be repaired and have outlasted their warranties, 5th Ward Alderman Richard Leggiero asked what the capabilities of the cars were and if doing business with a company other than Dodge would be wiser.
"We actually researched Ford and Chevy, along with the Dodge Chargers," Rust said. "With the 2013 Dodge Chargers that we're looking at, all the problems we've had have been corrected. Plus, they extended the warranty to a 100,000-mile drivetrain, five-year warranty. It was only a three-year, 36,000 mile warranty. Under the [new] warranty, the problems that we're having now would be covered."
First Ward Alderman Joe Isabel, who brought this proposition to the table, said he thinks the best strategy is to purchase two cars now and try to repair an additional two in coming months.
To purchase one car, which Culick said he would absolutely settle for if that's all that the city was able to get, would come out to $23,580. The necessary striping, lettering and addition of a light bar, would cost about $5,000 extra, according to Culick, bringing the total to roughly $30,000 per vehicle.
The cars in need of repair have engine and transmission problems. Culick said Fucillo Automotive Group gave him a quote of almost $7,000 for one engine replacement. The vehicles that the new ones would replace, Culick said, could be sold at auction for "maybe $900."
Four new cars are in next year's budget, however, this budget year has not yet ended.
No funding had been set aside in the current budget for police cars, so funds must be taken from a different line.
Culick asked if it was possible to borrow money from the new budget, as a bond, because the need for cars is so critical.
Corporation Counsel Gerry DeCusatis checked to see if it was possible to take from the general contingency fund. However, he found its balance to be only $18,000.
Mayor Ann Thane called David Mitchell, deputy controller, to check on the status of the water fund, which had slightly more than contingency, but not much.
"We're going to have to check on it," Thane told Culick. "We just have to find where there's money in this year's budget ... to cover $60,000."
Culick explained that the Johnstown dealership was holding two cars for him, pending Tuesday night's meeting, but would need to know if they were going to do business in two weeks at the latest.
"We're in a situation where [the dealership] has two cars in stock," Culick said. "It could easily take up to four or five months" to order them from another company.
Isabel said they would be able to look it over by their next meeting, in July, and then they would have an answer for him.
An optimistic Culick said he believes the council will find funding within two weeks and that the dealership shouldn't have a problem holding the to-be patrol cars.
"If it's just a couple of weeks, he should hold them for us," Culick said.
Culick said that if the department can return to a full, seven-car fleet, officers could do their jobs much more efficiently.
"Unfortunately, we're the only department in the city who runs [its vehicles] non-stop," Culick said. "So we put the most mileage on them ... Once we're up to seven, it definitely increases our patrol and it increases our visibility -- a lot more coverage."