MECHANICSBURG – With calls for service to the Mechanicsburg Police Department nearing 3,000 for the year, Village Council on Monday discussed the need to address the current state of the village’s two police cruisers – a 2015 Ford Explorer and a 2009 Chevrolet Impala.
According to Chief John Alexander, the Impala has been in and out of the repair shop with various maintenance issues and is currently in need of another repair estimated at $1,700. He added due to the unavailability at times of the Impala, the department has been forced to overuse the Explorer, which has accumulated 40,000 miles since the village acquired it in late October 2014.
To help alleviate the wear and tear on the Explorer, Alexander informed council, his department has been awarded a grant from the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services that will reimburse the village 75 percent of the total base price of a new cruiser.
After crunching numbers, however, Fiscal Officer Dan Eck laid out a proposal in which the village could purchase two new Ford Explorer police cruisers at $39,383 each (completely outfitted).
According to Eck, the village could use the following dollars to pay for the two cruisers: $26,157 in grant money; $12,735 from the Police Cruiser Fund; $24,487 from the Mayor’s Court Fund (closed and transferred to General Fund this year); and $8,480 from the Mayor’s Court Computer Fund (closed and transferred to General Fund this year).
Eck added that in his calculations, he factored in an estimated reduction in repairs to the Impala of $3,000, which would leave the village needing approximately $3,900.
“If we can pull that from the General Fund, it gets us two new cruisers,” he said.
When asked whether the police department needed two new cruisers, Alexander said while he is aware the village has never had a fleet of three cruisers, he believes the need is there.
“If you can limit each cruiser to 10,000 miles a year, you can stretch each cruiser out to roughly eight years and actually have resale value left when it’s time to trade them in,” he said.
The plan, Alexander added, would be to dedicate one cruiser to each shift. Considering the department is averaging eight calls for service per day, that would result in each cruiser being called out on about three calls a day.
While discussing whether to purchase one or two new cruisers, Mayor Greg Kimball reminded council that the Mayor’s Court funds being considered in the equation were transferred to the General Fund and thus can be used on other areas of need throughout the village like streets.
“Does it make sense to have three cruisers and no streets?” he said.
Council member Scott Salee responded by saying, “Every once in a while you get the opportunity to do something that you won’t have the opportunity to do again in who knows when. The Mayor’s Court funds did come primarily from law enforcement, so it just kind of seems like a no-brainer.
“This looks like a prime opportunity to do something to get us a little bit ahead for an important department in the village. I’m not afraid of doing the right thing,” he added.
Council member Jodi Compton reminded her fellow members that it’s council’s “job to take care of this village.”
“(The purchase of two new cruisers) can be seen as an investment in our law enforcement to help them do their jobs,” she added.
Council tabled the matter to allow for further research and discussion.
Future sites for economic development
In an attempt to get nonproductive land back into productive use, council passed an ordinance authorizing the administration to apply for expedited foreclosure through the Champaign County Board of Revision on the following four properties: 1 and 5 N. Main St. (side-by-side vacant lots on the corner of North Main and West Sandusky streets), and 2 and 4 N. Main St. (side-by-side vacant buildings at the corner of North Main and East Sandusky streets).
According to the ordinance, the village has been abating nuisances on the properties for the past four years, and the acquisition of the properties “is necessary and beneficial for the implementation of an effective land reutilization program in order to foster the return of such nonproductive land to tax revenue-generating status.”
Village Administrator April Huggins-Davis said the village has been in talks with the Champaign Economic Partnership (CEP) in regards to economic development opportunities available in downtown Mechanicsburg.
“We have people interested in doing something, but we can’t get property to do anything,” she said. “We are hoping something can be done to get properties like the ones on North Main Street into the hands of people willing to do something with them.”
On Tuesday, however, after speaking with the Board of Revision, Huggins-Davis said, she decided not to submit the application for expedited foreclosure on the four North Main Street properties, electing to wait to see how things play out between the county and the owner of the four properties – North Coast Properties of Champaign County LLC.
Huggins-Davis said there is a chance the village could submit the expedited foreclosure application, which seeks to gain clear titles to all four tax-delinquent properties, to the Board of Revision at its next meeting on Dec. 13.
In other business:
·Council passed a resolution in support of the Vacant Building Maintenance Enforcement Program (Section 592), a supplement of the Mechanicsburg Village Zoning Ordinance.
According to Joe Jimenez, village solicitor, the proposed supplement must be reviewed by the Mechanicsburg Planning Commission since it involves the zoning ordinance. Once reviewed, any recommendations will be noted and the measure will return to council in the form of an ordinance.
Prior to the proposed Vacant Building Maintenance Enforcement Program ordinance being put to a vote, it must undergo three readings and a public hearing must be held, Jimenez added.
·A public hearing to discuss the downtown overlay will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 5, in the municipal building.
·In light of the recent resignation of former village water operator Kermit Frazier Jr., council was informed administration has signed a contract with Unified Laboratory LLC to provide the village with a class one water operator at a cost of $75 per visit.
Huggins-Davis said the deal will cost the village around $900 a month, and the plan is to work with Unified Laboratory until Chris Beaver, the village’s current wastewater operator, obtains his water operator license.
·Council approved spending $6,600 to have two catch basins replaced by Wiseman & Sons.
Joshua Keeran may be reached at 937-508-2304 or on Twitter @UDCKeeran.