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Middletown Police Department to get $270,000 in equipment, SUVs and computers

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 2/14/18

The purchase of three new SUVs, 16 new laptop computers, and a new camera system for the police station and for police vehicles was approved for Middletown Police Department by borough council on …

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Middletown Police Department to get $270,000 in equipment, SUVs and computers

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The purchase of three new SUVs, 16 new laptop computers, and a new camera system for the police station and for police vehicles was approved for Middletown Police Department by borough council on Feb. 6.

Council voted 4-3 to approve the purchases, which total $271,938.03 and are being financed through annual lease payments over four years of $75,187, starting in January 2019.

The borough is buying the equipment through 911 Rapid Response of Annville, with bids going through COSTARS, the state’s cooperative purchasing program.

The package does not include body cameras, but the new camera system will be compatible with body cameras, police Chief George Mouchette told the Press & Journal.

Voting for the package was Council President Damon Suglia and Vice President Dawn Knull, and council members Ben Kapenstein and Ian Reddinger.

The department’s vehicle fleet is breaking down due to overuse, Knull told the Press & Journal after the vote.

“Our officers do need reliable cars in order to do their job and to stay safe. I have witnessed first-hand them having to jump a vehicle in a parking lot after a meeting. We cannot have that happening while going to a call or while leaving the crime scene with a criminal,” Knull said.

Voting no were Diana McGlone, Jenny Miller and Robert Reid.

Miller’s son is a patrol officer on the department. No objections were heard to Miller voting on the issue, which was her first big vote regarding the police since being elected in November.

The four majority councilors supported an option allowing the borough to defer the first payment until January 2019, for an additional $800 per annual payment compared to starting the lease payments in 2018.

Miller and McGlone afterward both cited deferring the payment as part of their reason for voting no.

“This is going to cost more because we are deferring the payment,” Miller said.

McGlone said the borough could start the payments in 2018 by using money in a police equipment fund, and by dipping into surplus cash.

The equipment fund has $117,520 in it, borough Manager Ken Klinepeter told council.

Close to $82,000 of that is from sale of the McNair House at North Union and East Emaus Street. The fund also includes revenue the borough receives each year from a cell tower lease.

But deferring the first payment until 2019 means more money from the equipment fund will be available this year to address other department needs, Reddinger said.

The department is planning to come before council on Feb. 20 to talk about radios, Klinepeter told council.

Deferring the payment until 2019 also means the borough can “replenish” the police equipment fund over 2018, said Mayor James H. Curry III, who as mayor is responsible for the police department.

“For $800 we get to punt it for another year. I think it might be a good move,” Suglia added during the meeting.

Reid and McGlone both objected to buying three new SUVs. Reid said he could support two, while McGlone said she would be “agreeable to one or two.”

Reid and Miller also objected to the department wanting to keep two old cars instead of getting rid of them. Buying  new cars while keeping the old ones will drive up  maintenance costs, Miller said.

Mouchette afterward told the Press & Journal he may take a few cars out of service, but that “the idea is to keep as many (vehicles) as possible so we can rotate them.”

“We really only have two or three functioning cars and they break down all the time because we use them so much. They are being used 24 hours a day,” he said. “If we have six or eight cars we can assign one or two officers to a car, so that the cars get down time and hopefully we don’t have to spend money every year buying new cars, because these cars are not being worn out.”

The equipment purchases are part of an ongoing department rebuilding that needs to continue, Mouchette said. The new computers are to replace eight or nine-year old computers that are making it “impossible” for officers to do their job.

“The last council basically decimated the police department,” Mouchette said. “What this council has realized is that when you give money to the police department it’s really an investment into yourself. Some people might think, ‘Yeah the cops are gonna get new computers,’ but it helps the cops do their job so they can help the community.”

He also gave credit to Curry for “fighting for us behind the scenes.”