Linden considers buying two police cars

Published 11:51 pm Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Linden City Council is considering purchasing two new patrol cars for the police department.

Linden police chief Scott McClure asked the city council Tuesday night to consider purchasing a new Dodge Charger and a Ford Crown Victoria for the department. They will be fitted with digital cameras and radars.

The new vehicles will replace two of the department’s older patrol cars, a 1999 Tahoe with 180,000 miles and a 1999 Crown Victoria with over 140,000.

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“The Tahoe sounds like a log truck going down the road,” McClure told the council. “It has front end problem and mechanically needs a lot of work.”

He said the Crown Victoria is in a little better condition but has an ongoing problem of shutting down when it comes to a stop.

The cost for the new vehicles totaled around $52,000.

The council was split in opinions over what to do, but did decide to consider the request.

“I think we need to look at our tax dollars and see where we are at before we decide to do this,” said councilman Dennis Breckenridge. “I think it’s a good idea to just look more into it.”

Currently, the eight-officer Linden police force supplies a vehicle for each officer.

“Have you considered having officers share vehicles rather than have one per officer?” councilman Richard Lankster asked McClure.

“A lot of times, officers may be faced with a situation where they need backup fast,” McClure said. “This system enables our officers who are off duty to respond immediately when needed. If I am in a situation when I need help from another officer, I want them to get there fast and in a patrol car.”

“I remember when Linden did not have but a couple of cars and we had to rotate them in shifts,” said councilman Mike Carlise. “I was on the city council then, and we wore out cars so quickly that way. We would let three or four people drive the same vehicle that way, and it would never have a chance to cool off. The chances of it not being maintained properly is higher that way as well.”

McClure said it would take about 120 days just to get a new car and have it outfitted for police use.

The city council decided to table the request and come back to it after a further examination of the city’s tax revenue.

In other business —

A tenant in the Linden housing units who is being evicted for not fulfilling a community service clause addressed the city council on behalf of herself and the other tenants.

“I really don’t understand why we are being evicted,” said Kathy Highland.

The Linden Housing Authority is in the process of evicting eight families from the housing after a year-long effort to get the tenants to comply with a requirement in their contract requiring eight hours of community service a month.

HUD, who sets the regulations that tenants and housing authorities are required to follow, placed the community service clause in all of the housing contracts in 1998.

The housing board met with the tenants and a representative from Congressman Autry Davis’ office last week, but decided not to rescind their decision to evict the non-compliant residents by Dec. 1

“The housing authority felt it necessary to uphold the law in this matter. It was not an easy decision for them to make or one they wanted to make,” said Linden Mayor Mitzi Gates. “I do not think there is anything the city council can do to overrule their decision even if they wanted to.”

Woody Dinning, Jr., the city’s attorney, agreed. “The housing board is an independent body that makes all of the decisions about Linden’s housing authority being compliant with HUD rules and regulations,” said Dinning. “It would be like the city council telling the sheriff how to run his office. He would just laugh at us.”

“Community service? Why do we have to go to some agency to do community service when we can do community service to help the community,” Highland asked. “We also didn’t receive six letters (informing the residents of the requirement) like they said we did. We only received one.”

Gates responded that Tim Speed, the executive director for Linden Housing Authority had documentation showing six letters were sent informing the tenants they needed to comply with the requirement or face eviction.

“The reason why you have to go through a community agency is simply because the taxpayers are paying a great deal of the cost for the housing development,” said Gates. “It is HUD’s desire that the residents do community service that benefits the community at large. That is part of the lease agreement and has been for ten years.”

“We can talk about this all night, but it is not going to go anywhere,” Dinning finally told Highland and a couple of the other residents who were present with her. “The only two entities who has any say in this are the housing board and HUD.”

Linden Police Chief Scott McClure informed the city council that his department had received a $1500 grant to purchase new vests. Complete with bulletproof armor, the vest cost about $450 each.

“Our current vests are over six years old,” said McClure. “They tell us the vest last about five years. I’m not sure if they still work after that time, but I don’t want to find out.”

The grant is a 50% match, requiring the city to put up the additional 50%.