MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – The Mobile city council had good news for local law enforcement Tuesday, April 22.
The council agreed to spend more than $3 million to purchase nearly a hundred new police cars. The vote clears the way for the city to purchase police cars and motorcycles that Chief James Barber says are vital to police protection in Mobile.
The patrol cars that get officers to crime scenes, patrol our streets and transport inmates are as essential to law enforcement as the officers who drive them.
“What we’re dealing with here is a decade of neglect for the police fleet. So we’ve ended up with cars that date back 20 years; 1994,” Chief Barber.
In a presentation to the city council, Chief Barber showed pictures of the aging fleet, including photos right after a mechanical mishap caused one officer to wreck.
“Last month we had the ball joints fall out of one of the cars. One of them caused an officer to leave the roadway and strike a pole. Luckily he wasn’t seriously injured,” he explained.
Chief Barber said on average, 70 cars are down for repairs every day. He added it costs about $4,000 a year per vehicle to keep the remaining cars on the road.
Following the presentation, the council voted unanimously to approve $3 million to purchase 94 new cars.
Barber said since Ford no longer makes the Crown Victoria police cars, the vehicles must be ordered from Australia.
“They only make what’s ordered. So I have to be able to order the vehicles so that they will actually build them and ship them to me, and even then it’s a lengthy process. Six months would be a good turn around, but I would expect it to be pretty close to the end of the year before I even get these vehicles in,” Barber said.
The money to pay for the cars will come from capital money. Mayor Sandy Stimpson said it’s an important example of why the city must get out of the habit of dipping into capital money for general fund expenses, as Council Member Fred Richardson has often proposed.
“It’s not going to be easy to wean yourself from it, because we’ve gotten use to doing it, but that is the discipline that we have to develop is saying this is for capital, and this is where we’re going to spend the money,” Mayor Stimpson said.
The capital money to pay for the police cars is generated by the city’s one cent sales tax.
Barber said this is not the last time the council will hear from the chief about replacing vehicles. He said the city needs to purchase about 100 cars a year over the next few years in order to upgrade the fleet of more than 600 cars.
The city council also agreed to spend capital money to pay for repairs to street lights on Blacklawn Street in District 2 where residents have been in the dark for three years.