Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Mayor Lutz pushes for police vehicle at meeting

Mayor Lutz arrived at the December 22 Meeting of the Whole sporting a jacket with a Columbia Police Department logo. As the meeting wore on, his support for police became increasingly apparent in his push to include a new police cruiser in the 2015 budget.

During the sometimes contentious discussion, it was revealed that the borough owns 10 vehicles, four whose mileage is 5,000 miles or less, one with 70,000 miles, and others with mileages ranging from 13,000 to 42,000. A detective's car, a van, and a street sweeper are among the 10 vehicles.

"We had to look at some really tough numbers this year with the budget," Councillor Kelly Murphy said, noting that there is only one vehicle nearing the end of its life. "We didn't feel it was necessary to replace one this year," adding that the purchase of a new vehicle was pushed back one year. Lutz stated there had been a previous discussion that a new vehicle would be purchased to replace a 2005 Tahoe with 71,000 miles. He said the vehicle is costing the borough money to keep it on the road. Lutz also noted that there are currently no vehicles except for a Ford Fusion used by the detective that has less than 4,000 miles. Another vehicle is a replacement due to a "demolition."

"This Tahoe is going to cost us money for the next year and a half that it's going to take before it gets to another budget cycle for the sake of going out for a municipal lease that's in the budget for $7,000," Lutz said. "We'll probably approach most of that within the next year and a half in maintenance costs on that vehicle. This doesn't make sense, none whatsoever, especially when you're sitting on a capital reserve that you're currently sitting on. If you don't do it this year you're going to live with this thing for another year and half." Lutz also said that if one of the vehicles goes down, two patrolmen will need to ride in one vehicle.

Murphy said he has not received any information about the expense of maintaining the vehicles. He said that according to the previous borough manager and verified by other sources the vehicle purchased for the detective is not being used - to the point that the battery needs to be jumped to get it started.  He said the detective is putting miles on police vehicles that the police should be putting on.  Lutz countered by saying the vehicle was being jumped due to an electrical problem. He said the vehicle has a mileage of 3,000, because only one person is using it, and a lot of his work is done in the office.

Councillor Barry Ford asked Lutz how many cars per shift are being used. Lutz said that it depends on how many officers are on a shift. "It could be four. It could be five," Lutz said. "It could be three. It could be two." Lutz also noted that vehicles cannot be run "24/7."

"I need to know whether we're going to have a vehicle or not," Lutz said. He noted that the borough has a budget reserve of $3.2 million. "That's 10 mills. If anything, the borough ought to give the people a mill tax reduction this year, and give them a break."

Councillor Jim Smith said, "I'd go for that rather than buying a police cruiser." But Murphy cautioned that the projection for next year could pull the reserve down by almost $800,000.

Lutz then claimed that for 12 years the police department has returned $1.9 million into the general fund, not including fines, citations, reimbursements for overtime from the school district, or money reimbursed for vests and other items. "Probably 66% of your budget reserve was earned by the police department," Lutz said. Murphy asked how that was possible.  Lutz shot back, "I don't know. Ask your accountant, because I took the  figures off your accountant."

"That budget comes from you," Murphy said. "You're saying you saved us $1.9 million."

"I don't do that part of the budget," Lutz replied. "I can't support this budget unless you give me reassurances we're buying a police vehicle."

Smith said, "You're saying what this car's going to cost.  How about showing something? All that is - that's your word."

Lutz replied, "It's in the budget! The chief told me the vehicle is starting to cost us money. I know the Tahoes are costing us money, because of the downtime in the shop."

Councillor Mary Barninger asked which shop is servicing the vehicles, citing the absence of bills in the check registers.

Several councillors recalled a bill from Lancaster Avenue Garage for a water pump for a Tahoe, as well as one for $42 for an inspection.

"We need to have some factual information," Murphy said. "Supporting documentation always helps. We've asked for this how many years now." He said spreadsheets should be made available to show vehicle maintenance costs.

Acting Borough Manager Ron Miller said, "We have it. We just don't have an organized spreadsheet. I'll just work on getting that spreadsheet together, because the information's there."

Council voted unanimously to pass the 2015 budget, with the cuts intact and no increase in the tax rate.

Lutz subsequently vetoed the budget at some point after the meeting.

Follow-up: A reliable source informed this website today that Mayor Lutz contacted LNP about his decision to veto the budget. He did not officially inform council.

A source also informed us that eight police vehicles were allegedly sitting idle near the police station for several hours this past Monday.  We were also informed that there are usually three officers per shift.

The two videos below showing six police vehicles sitting idle near the police station were shot today - an hour apart, the first just before 1 p.m., the second just before 2 p.m.




16 comments:

  1. What a way to operate Mr mayor don't get your way and whine and throw a tantrum like a 2 year old. What a joke veto a budget over a police car that obviously can be done without.

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  2. Very unorganized in the boro. They have no clue about anything!!

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  3. I couldn't imagine going to my co budget meeting & giving this kind of presentation to request a capital purchase. This is a prime example of a person in charge who has no business running anything.

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  4. wow. unbelieveable. what an as-. NO. N O. NOOOOOOOOO. No police vehicles. In the REAL world people are losing thier homes every day. NO. Council you better say NO.

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  5. This boro is small enough to make do with the police vehicles that we have currently. Why aren't the officers out walking and riding bicycles? I don't want to hear about response time, as again, this is a small borough. There is a lot that could be gained by officers walking.

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    1. So your saying that "if" you lived on say, Devonshire Place and you are being assaulted or robbed you want the police to walk or ride a bike to your house for the response? I guess if their riding bikes and arrest someone they could have the person arrested stand on some pegs on the back of the bike or sit on the handlebars for a ride back to station.

      Yes the police may have enough cars to get them by until 2016 but people really need to think about if they were the one to need the police. Residents should be happy for the most part with response times now compared to other places around. Heck just call the state police, they might get there in a 1/2 hour if your lucky.

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  6. I'm sure Leo Klutz could afford to buy a Tahoe out of his own pocket if he thinks the dept needs it that bad. The 2005 is costing the borough so much

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  7. How can he still be Mayor, what a joke

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  8. I'd like to know when all this "down time is" because the Tahoe is always sitting in front of the Chief's house!

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  9. Obviously, there is always an officer in a car. The walking and biking is to compliment their efforts. The response time will ALWAYS vary depending on where they are and what they are doing at the time a call is dispatched.

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    1. This is the 21st century. We use vehicles to get around.

      -FMB

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    2. I dont see them often, what are they doing on tax payer time??

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  10. this is absolutely, positively irrevocably WRONG. hell my vehicle has more than 99,000 miles on it and it's costing me some money but NO I can't afford a new one or a car pymt. why the hell does the Mayor think US HOMEOWNING TAXPAYING RESIDENTS can afford ANOTHER POLICE VEHICLE. hell there are only ever 2 officers on at a t time anyway. this is ridiculous. he has GOT TO GO.

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  11. seriously Mayor. the police dept has saved the boro $1.9 million???? really? the police dept COSTS the taxpayers HOW many MILLIONS PER YEAR???????????? you need a real life.

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  12. THIS IS TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE AND IRRESPONSIBLE. THE MAYOR ACTS LIKE A SPOILED LITTLE KID. WHO IN THE HELL CARES WHAT HE OR THE CHIEF THINKS ABOUT NEEDING ANOTHER CAR. NO. N O. NADA. ZIP. ZILCH. ABSOLUTEELY NOT. NO.NONONONONONONONONONONONO. the police dept needs NEW supervision and NEW MAYOR. period. these are taking this boro down faster than you can say no.

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  13. We do not need another police car sitting in the alley. Plus the suv's use a lot of gas too. Please think of our taxes Mayor.

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