CENTRAL CITY – Borough officials took another step toward starting a police department Monday, voting to apply for a low-interest loan up to $47,000 to buy and equip an all-wheel-drive cruiser.
The borough hasn’t committed to buying a vehicle, or borrowing the funds, but took the step after collecting several quotes for a police vehicle, including a 2020 Dodge Charger through the state’s cooperative purchasing program.
If a state grant can be secured, Councilman Dan Bulger said the borough’s expense could be lowered by $10,000 – most of the cost to add a backseat “cage,” a gun rack and lights, among other add-ons.
Bulger said he spoke with area grant writer Travis Hutzell about the option and is confident the borough has a good chance at receiving the support.
The cost to restart the department remains a tense issue in borough meetings, with Councilman Lee Cook, still skeptical the borough can afford a part-time, 36 hour-per-week department, a new vehicle and other ongoing costs for a price tag the small town can afford.
At times during Monday’s meeting, he argued with Bulger about estimates and Bulger’s method of collecting them, prompting Council President Bob Sanzo to stop their exchange after Cook used a profanity.
Cook raised concerns about insurance costs – and earlier in the meeting, also pitched the idea of buying a used police car with 59,000 miles for $16,000 – an approximately $30,000 savings.
But fellow members didn’t entertain the idea, instead continuing to compare quotes on new vehicle.
The borough still has several steps to take before a department would be official – among them, hiring officers.
A group of 10 borough residents attended the meeting, all urging the borough to start a department, with each saying they’d gladly pay an extra mill of taxes annually for the service.
Most mentioned “out-of-control” drug problems and break-ins as their top concerns.
“I beg the borough,” resident Linda Sesack said. “Make this community a safer place for all of us.”
Borough officials have already discussed adding 1 mill of taxes to help cover police payroll. The $12,000 in revenue it generates would be paired with $24,000 has dedicated each year for outside police coverage – most recently through Shade.
Sanzo indicated an additional mill of taxes would likely add $40 a year to the average property owner’s borough tax bill.
The borough started taking steps toward restarting a police force in August, voting 4-1 to reinstate a borough department that was disbanded 17 years ago.
In August, they also voted to draft an ordinance that would raise taxes by a mill to cover a portion of the annual police costs. But Solicitor Ben Carroll reminded the board Monday that they cannot enact a tax increase until 2022 – through the budget adoption process this upcoming December.
David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @TDDavidHurst.