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City Council to vote on additional police cars

The Selma City Council will vote on the purchase of three additional cars for the Selma Police Department during its meeting on Thursday.

The council’s public safety committee met Wednesday and recommended purchasing three Ford Explorers at a total cost of approximately $120,000, or $39,000 per year for three years. The cars would come with a police package and be purchased through a state contractor rather than putting the cars out for bid.

During the meeting, Chief of Police William Riley said the police department needs additional cars as it hires more officers.

“Right now we are burning through our vehicle maintenance fund because we have to make repairs on some of our older vehicles,” Riley said. “I hate putting money into an older car because it may not be worth that much. In reality we need seven vehicles, but we understand that other department heads have needs, too.”

The police department currently owns 62 cars and four motorcycles. It employs 55 police officers. Riley said several other prospective officers are finishing up final stages of the hiring process.

“We have a couple of spares, but they really aren’t spares because we have to use them,” he said. “We are trying to work it to when we have one vehicle in service we have another to replace it. Right now we are trying to budget for growth.”

The public safety committee discussed using the half-cent sales tax fund to pay for the vehicles. Instead of making monthly payments on the cars, Mayor George Evans recommended the city pay for the cars in two bulk payments each year. The lease-purchase agreement would end and the police department would own the cars after the city pays $1 in a fourth year.

After the committee discussed purchasing the cars, Riley further addressed the police department’s allotment of maintenance funds for fiscal year 2014 — approximately $60,000. Riley said the police department has already spent approximately 75 percent of its budgeted amount. He asked for an additional $10,000 to help pay for future repairs.

“We are pushing to purchase these new cars right now because of our maintenance cost for the older cars,” Riley said. “The nice thing about the new cars is that they come with a warranty.”

City council member Cecil Williamson said he was concerned about the speed at which the police department spent 75 percent of its repair budget.

“We are only five months into the fiscal year,” Williamson said. “You may be back in a few months to ask for more. You’re not going to get by on $10,000 more.”

Williamson said the committee would consider the request and bring it up at a future city council meeting.