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By Brian Lee TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF

SOUTHBRIDGE- The Police Department should get two new cruisers, a subcommittee is recommending to the full Town Council.

Also headed to the council is Pamela A. Regis' suggestion for a new policy about police-vehicle purchases - that they be made through the operating budget instead of the capital budget.

Funding for the cruisers wasn't in this year's budget. But finance officials would like to purchase them with a loan, and during the months-long purchasing process, it's possible to allocate money from another account after free cash has been determined, officials said.

Police Chief Daniel R. Charette said the new vehicles are "absolute necessities," adding he intends to ask for two more in the spring. There haven't been enough cars for regular patrol and "we were doubling up," he said.

The practice of putting engines into vehicles that are worth less than the engine "doesn't make any sense," he asserted.

The department has a rolling stock of 22 vehicles, of which 19 are usable, he said. Nine have accrued more than 100,000 miles. Experts say "we should be doing this every 50,000 to 60,000 miles to be cost effective," the chief said.

One vehicle burns more than a quart of oil in an 8-hour shift, and two are sitting in the back of the parking lot waiting for parts, the chief said.

Councilor Conrad L. Vandal asserted that last year's accident, in which cruisers collided at an intersection while responding to an accident, was disheartening.

The chief said he agreed and explained the officers in the accident were en route to an emergency situation: an officer on foot was chasing a suspect. The officer that didn't yield the right-of-way received a written warning, he said.

Mr. Vandal said it appeared officers didn't always use their head, to which the chief said he again agreed.

For instance, a sergeant was given a letter four days ago "that if I see him operating erratically again, I'm going to put him on desk for the next four months." The chief didn't identify the sergeant.

Council Vice Chairman Steven S. Lazo said other towns seem to take more pride in their vehicles. He said some of Southbridge's have missing hub caps and look filthy.

The chief said towns like neighboring Sturbridge, which has fewer officers, get three new cars a year and they are assigned to and taken care of by certain officers.

In addition, such things as washing cars sometimes get overlooked because of staffing. The chief said he has lost a lieutenant in charge of personnel, and he and Lt. William Hibbard oversee about 6,000 hours covered by 71 employees. For that reason, he said, he would soon request additional personnel.

Since 2002, the department has bought three vehicles through town funding, including one from last spring.

The federal High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas program paid for a detective's car last year; the Worcester district attorney's office, through its C-PAC unit, donated a 12-year-old Toyota Camry after the chief told them about their need. United Lens in Southbridge has also donated a Crown Victoria.

The animal control officer's sport utility was obtained through forfeiture, and a vehicle used for DARE programming is from a drug seizure.

http://www.telegram.com/article/20080806/NEWS/808060481/1004/NEWS04
 

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The chief said towns like neighboring Sturbridge, which has fewer officers, get three new cars a year and they are assigned to and taken care of by certain officers.
And the difference in property tax, per capita income, etc is...
 

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Sturbridge has a lot of tax base. Southbridge has barely anything. Also Southbridge has or had a full-time mechanic to work on police cruisers. Which I think is unique.
 
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