Council divided on police vehicle proposal

STRASBURG – Town Council remains divided over how the Strasburg Police Department should obtain new vehicles next year.

Leaders discussed a proposal Monday to acquire vehicles through a program that would tie ownership to the number of tickets officers write that lead to convictions. The town normally leases vehicles for three years. The proposal calls for the department to receive two SUVs from Public Finance Solutions for four years. Revenue from tickets written by officers using those vehicles that lead to convictions would go to Public Finance Solutions, Town Manager Ryan Spitzer said. At the end of the period, the department could buy the vehicles from the company for $1 each, according to information from Police Chief Tim Sutherly.

Councilmen Richard “Rich” Orndorff Jr., Donald Le Vine and John “Red” Hall Jr. said they wouldn’t support the chief’s proposal. Councilmen Scott Terndrup and Robert “Bob” Baker and Councilwoman Jocelyn Vena voiced support for the idea. Councilman Seth Newman expressed some support but chose not to say which way he fell when Mayor Timothy Taylor took a consensus of members. Council doesn’t usually take action at work sessions. Vice Mayor Richard Redmon did not attend the work session.

Taylor asked Sutherly if he still wanted to see the program happen. The chief left it up to council to go in that direction or to stick with the usual procurement method.

Town police write approximately 30 tickets per month. In response to a question from Baker, Sutherly said the department is considering setting up patrols on Interstate 81 where officers likely would write more tickets. Baker noted that the police would need to write at least 10 more tickets to meet the 40-per-month expectation.

Orndorff pointed out that the more tickets written by officers the less revenue the department must pay to the company.

“It still gives the perception that it’s a quota,” Orndorff said. “They still get that perception that we got to write more tickets.”

Strasburg receives an interest rate of about 3 or 4 percent when it finances the purchase of police vehicles through First Bank, Orndorff said. Officers don’t have to write tickets for the town to own the vehicles, he added.

Newman didn’t voice support for one way or the other.

“As far as quotas go, I don’t care about the perception. As long as you keep drug dealers off the road, you’re saving lives by slowing people down,” Newman said. “Keep writing (tickets). Keep pulling them over. You don’t want a ticket? Don’t speed.”

Terndrup said he agreed with Newman, adding that the representative from Public Finance Solutions did not speak of quotas when he talked to council about the program.

“This is a part of our community safety program and the only people offended by that would be, I agree, people who decide to take a drink before they get in their vehicle and drive; people who decide to go 15 or more miles over the speed limit and they think that’s OK,” Terndrup said. “This is about making your community safer.”

Le Vine said he saw no financial advantage to going with Public Finance Solutions. Le Vine said there’s a risk involved in participating with the program.

But the town would save $10,000 a year through the program, Terndrup said.

If officers write the normal number of tickets in the four years while using the vehicles acquired through the program, the department wouldn’t pay nearly as much for each as they do through leasing, Sutherly told council. However, the department would need to return the vehicles if it did not meet the company’s standards, he added.

Vehicles are usually auctioned off after four or five years anyway, the chief noted.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or