CHATHAM – The board approved the purchase of two new police cars for the Village Police Department at last week’s regular meeting. After much debate, and an offer by part-time Police Chief Peter Volkman to give back $5,000 a year of his salary to pay for the cars, the board approved signing a lease on two Dodge Chargers for about $56,000 each, paid for as a $15,000 annual lease lasting four years. At the end of four years, Chief Volkman said the board could purchase the cars for $1 each.
“I see it as $15,000 a year out of a $150,000 budget,” the chief told the board at the Thursday, April 10 meeting, measuring the cost of the lease against the annual budget for the whole department.
Mayor Tom Curran said that the village accounting firm, Sickler, Torchia, Allen and Churchill, told the board not to buy any police cars in this budget. “I’d rather stagger them a year,” he said. The mayor said he preferred to buy one car in the current year’s budget, which ends in May, and purchase another in next year’s budget.
Trustee Lenore Packet said that there are roads in the village that needed repair and that money needs to be found in the budget for that. She was also concerned about the designs on the car that the chief had proposed, which included making the car a darker color and adding “Panther Pride” logos in support of the school district’s mascot.
Chief Volkman said the design could be changed and stressed that the department currently has only one functioning car. Having two cars would mean the police could rotate their use, which should make them last longer, he said. He also pointed out that he had put $5,000 in the budget for repairs to the current car and that there is money in the 2014-15 budget for repairs that would be reduced if the department had new cars.
Trustee Jay Rippel supported the chief’s request, saying he thought the price was a good deal for two cars. He said he felt it was important to have safe police cars “to keep our part-time police force up and running.”
“You can’t do your job when you have inferior equipment,” said Trustee Adrienne Morrell.
Trustee Michael Wollowitz seemed to be on the fence about buying two cars at the beginning of the meeting, and he pointed out that the board did not want the chief to have to give back $5,000 annually from his salary to pay for the car.
But as the debate continued he said that having a car might attract more part-time officers. “Put them in a good car, and morale might be a little better,” he said.
When the measure came to a vote, the board unanimously approved signing the lease for the vehicles and adopting, with the pay cut for the chief going into effect immediately.
The chief said that though the cars are on the dealer’s lot, they will need to be outfitted with all the equipment needed for a police car, which would take a few months. He also said he would discuss the decals on the cars with the board.
Also at the meeting the board:
•Discussed hiring a consultant to oversee the work for the Safe Routes to School project as part of the state requirements for the project. The Safe Routes to School is a state grant awarded the village several years ago to improve sidewalks leading to the school on Woodbridge Avenue. Village Engineer Pat Prendergast will review applicants for the job and the Village Board will meet with several candidates this month
•Voted to re-levy late water bills, combing them with the property tax bills sent to the property owners who have not paid their water bills. One property owner in the village owes $23,657.38 in late water bills and fines on one residence. The other bills are for $9,007 and $1,455. The board is also re-levying property taxes to pay for the demolition of a barn on Locust Street for $5,350 and $152 in legal fees
•Voted to re-levy back taxes on 69 properties in the village. The village is owed over $100,000 in unpaid property taxes, according to Village Clerk Kathy Burke.
The board will hold a special meeting on Thursday, April 24 at 7 p.m. with a budget hearing at 6 p.m.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .