Vehicle repair budget already spent

by Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

By a vote of 4-2, the Hines Common Council approved a motion to accept bids for two new vehicles for the Hines Police Department.

At a special meeting of the council on Tuesday, Sept. 3, Hines Police Chief Ryan DeLange  told the council that all three vehicles the department uses have broken down over the past three months, and there’s no money left in the budget for any more repairs.

The three vehicles currently used by Hines Police are a 2004 Ford Crown Victoria (Crown Vic), with about 150,000 miles, a 2006 Crown Vic with about 120,000 miles, and a 2009 Dodge Charger.

Delange said the vehicles were used when they got them, and worked well until now. He added that one of the Crown Vics had an internal leak, and they were putting a gallon of antifreeze in it each week, and the other’s fuel gauge quit functioning.

DeLange spoke with several law enforcement agencies around the state and found they get rid of Crown Vics at about 120,000 miles because that’s when they begin to break down. The other agencies also advised to not purchase used vehicles.

DeLange said his research showed most police agencies are phasing out the Crown Vics, and going with the Chargers because they last longer. “We average about 17,000 miles a year on our cars, so with new cars, they would last about 10 years with regular maintenance,” DeLange said. The new vehicles would also come with 3-year, 36,000 mile, bumper-to-bumper warranties, and as well as powertrain warranties. The cost of a new Charger, fully outfitted for the police department, would be about $32,000.

Councilor Ron Williams asked Delange if he was recommending getting rid of the Crown Vics and purchasing two new Chargers to replace them?

“Yes,” DeLange answered.

Councilor Dick Baird said the city hadn’t put enough effort into trying to salvage what they already have. “There’s been more effort to get new cars instead of saving what we have. We need more research,” he said.

Williams stated that he wouldn’t personally take off on a road trip in a vehicle that was faulty, and he doesn’t expect the police to drive around in problematic vehicles. “For the safety of the community, and the police, we need to replace them [the vehicles,]” he said.

Mayor Nikki Morgan asked DeLange if he had some sort of vehicle replacement program in place?

DeLange said he would follow the same program used by Oregon State Police, and replace vehicles at 150,000. “It’s a 10-year investment,” DeLange said.

City Administrator (CA) Joan Davies said she had talked to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and it has grants available. She said she was told that if the city purchased three new vehicles, USDA would pay for one.

Referring to the vehicle with  150,000 miles on it, Morgan said, “It’s a ‘dead horse,’ and the other one is getting there. It’s a money pit.”

“There’s a reason why other counties trade them off — they break down,” DeLange said.

Davies said the city could finance the vehicles at a low interest rate through a local bank, plus apply to USDA for funds, but she needed direction from the council. “Are you looking at replacing three cars? One? Two? I need to know to fill out the USDA application,” she said.

Councilor John Mims then made a motion to accept bids for two new Dodge Charger police vehicles.

Councilors Williams, Mims, Tom Choate and Hilda Allison voted in favor of the motion. Nay votes were cast by Baird and Dick Anderson.

The council discussed changing the process for utilities billing, which included shortening the time period for delinquent accounts.

CA Davies told the council that in the last billing period, there were 42 unpaid accounts after the 10th of the month, which is the due date.

The city sent out delinquency notices to be paid by the 22nd of the month.

The city still had 28 unpaid accounts after the delinquency notices, and the city sent termination notices.

After the termination notices were sent, there were still 14 unpaid accounts. The city called those residents, and as of the meeting date, all had paid but one, who is making payments. Davies added that the calls were made because it was less cost to the city than sending employees out to each residence.

Davies then explained the new proposal for billing, which shortens the time period:

The utility bill goes out  on the 30th of each month, with the total due;

The total or half of the total is due by the 10th of the following month;

If not paid by the 30th of the following month, a delinquency notice will be sent;

Payment is then due by the 10th of the third month;

If not paid by the 11th of the third month, a termination notice is sent and a fee of $25 is assessed;

If not paid by the 16th of the third month, services will be terminated.

Davies said some of the residents who were past-due said they were expecting a call from the city as a reminder, but they should no longer rely on that.

“That’s not going to happen anymore. We’re not going to call,” she said.

Davies asked the council to approve shortening the delinquency collection process, but to not limit her flexibility to work with consumers for the benefit of both parties.

“There’s always the ‘dog ate my homework’ story,” Davies said.

The council voted unanimously to approve the proposal, and granted Davies the flexibility she requested.

CA Davies said she met with the street commissioners and maintenance crew, and they decided there was enough money budgeted to do a crack-seal project on two city streets, West Ridge and Juniper.

The council discussed doing a seal-coat on one one side of one block, so the two sides can be compared in the spring.

Davies recommended that the seal-coat be applied on the north side of West Barnes, between North Quincy and Highway 20, as that area gets a lot of traffic and would provide a valid sampling.

Following a lengthy discussion about the crack-sealing process and what would benefit the city most, the council approved a motion to put out a bid, with specific requests, for crack-sealing on West Ridge and Juniper streets.

Councilor Williams abstained from voting because his business performs crack-sealing.

In other business:

• Fire Chief Bob Spence reported the new doors were installed in the fire hall and are working well. He thanked the council for their support in getting the project done.

The fire department responded to two calls on Sept. 1. One was a  brush fire on North Saginaw that burned part of a fence, power pole and a patch of ground.

The second was a trailer fire on Highway 20 near milepost 83. Spence said it was a 30-foot travel trailer, and it was completely destroyed. He noted that the owner of the trailer was moving to Florida, so all his belongings were lost in the fire.

The incident shut down the highway for one and a half hours, and firemen remained on the scene for more than four hours.

Burns Fire Department also responded to both calls.

On Sept. 3, both Burns and Hines fire departments responded to a house fire on South Grand. Spence said the fire filled the attic area with smoke, and was believed to have been started by faulty wiring.

Spence said the department is continuing to recruit volunteers, and he asked that those interested fill out a questionnaire before completing an application. “I want to meet them, take them to a meeting, let them know the rules, regulations and expectations before they fill out an application,” Spence said.

He also wanted to stress to residents that a county-wide burn ban is still in effect. “Fire season is still here,” he said;

• Public Works Superintendent Pedro Zabala told the council they had read the water meters and found 13 of the older heads had gone bad. He also reported water use was down 47 percent from the previous month;

• Councilor Mims asked if the city could get some large rocks to place at the north end of the city park to prevent traffic from creating even more of a ditch. The city agreed to look into it;

• the council approved that an OLCC license application for the Big Bear Lodge be granted for on-premise fulltime liquor sales;

• CA Davies reported the refundable can and bottle project was up to $7,069.

She also suggested the council not hold its regularly scheduled meeting Sept. 10, but wait until Sept. 24 for the next meeting. That would allow time for more information on the police car bids, and the council agreed.

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