The Chicago Heights Police Department is going to get 15 new police cars to replace 15 older ones. At its Oct. 1 meeting, the Chicago Heights City Council voted unanimously to pass a resolution authorizing Mayor David A. Gonzalez to purchase the vehicles at the request of Police Chief Charles A. Guiliani Jr.
According to Guiliani, much of the city's 34-car fleet is quickly becoming outdated and expensive to maintain.
"We are currently using vehicles that are as old as eight years old," Guiliani said. "While that may be appropriate for somebody to hold onto their family vehicle that long, these vehicles work under high stress, weather conditions, things of that nature, and it's become a position where it's costing more to try to maintain them than it would to purchase the new vehicles."
The vehicles will be purchased via a lease agreement for $362,000 over four years, although Guiliani said the cost could be reduced by up to $20,000 if the older vehicles are accepted for trade-ins. Vehicles that are not accepted as trade-ins may be put up for auction or donated to the fire department.
While he couldn't specify offhand how much the city would save by replacing the older vehicles rather than continuing to maintain them, Guiliani said the replacements were the more financially sound choice.
"Obviously, the older vehicles require much more maintenance, and you're basically throwing good money after bad, eventually," he said.
Another order of business at the meeting was the approval of a $1,000 yearly stipend for members of the city's board of fire and police commissioners to compensate them for work beyond the regular scope and hours of their jobs. The stipend will not include any benefits or insurance.
"There's municipalities that pay all board members that serve on commissions," Gonzalez said. "Right now we have about twelve boards, but this would be the only paying board, and it's because of the amount of meetings that they do have. It's very time-consuming."
Some of the factors that led to the proposal of this stipend include the amount of time the Police and Fire Board spends processing and interviewing applicants for jobs with the police and fire departments as well as promoting or enacting disciplinary decisions towards existing employees.
"The mayor recognized the overwhelming amount of time these guys were putting in for free," Corporation Counsel T.J. Somer said. "I mean, literally, just this current police test? When they're done, they'll have done 60 interviews. I mean, it's a lot of work, and that doesn't count the fire department and promotional testing. So it's a lot of work, and I think the mayor, having been there and having done that, understands how much commitment it means and wanted to show the city's appreciation for it."
The board approved the ordinance in a unanimous vote.