HOPEWELL, Va. (WRIC) — More than a dozen Hopewell police cars have severe wear and tear on them, but a vote by city leaders will add new vehicles to the department’s fleet.
Police chief A.J. Starke presented several pictures of cruisers with holes in the driver’s seats, holes in the floorboards and side panels coming off to city council.
“I don’t want to lose these officers but officers start to get discouraged when they open their door and they’re sitting in a driver’s seat with a hole in it, or they have a floorboard where you can stick a finger through the hole,” he said at the Tuesday night’s meeting.
Starke said there are six open job positions within the department. Three officers are in the process of leaving to work in neighboring areas like Prince George and for the Capitol Police.
He added that some police cruisers don’t have air conditioning that works properly. Last week, Chief Starke said 16 cars were in the shop getting repaired.
“On a Monday, to have one patrol officer share that over the course of the weekend he had to swap vehicles three different times, because the cars kept failing. Either the cars kept running hot or other issues,” he said.
Council members voted 5-2 in favor of amending the budget to give the police department $774,512 to purchase 15 police cars.
John Partin, Vice Mayor of Hopewell, voted in favor of the decision.
“We’ve got to get the ball rolling and get started,” he said during Tuesday’s meeting. “We’ve had this money now for two years and I think if we knew that it was in such deplorable condition these things would’ve already been done and taken care of.”
Councilwoman Janice Denton, who represents the fifth ward, voted in opposition.
“I support the police,” she said. “I just want to be sure that we spend this money as we would our own at home. We have to be careful about how we spend every penny.”
She added that she wanted to postpone the vote until they looked at a list of all the city’s needs. Now she’s concerned that money may be tight when it comes to addressing other problems in the city.
“Honestly, I do not believe 6.5 million will answer all of our problems,” Denton said.
$6.5 million is how much of the American Rescue Plan Act funds the city has now, according to Denton.
The former police chief brought the cars’ conditions to council members’ attention two years ago, but the city didn’t have enough money to cover the costs, she added.
Partin said it would take about one-and-a-half to two years to get the police cars in.
“I’m not the one to continually put something off,” he told 8News Monday. “Public safety should be our number one priority. Citizens get an increased benefit from this and it truly benefits us in getting caught up.”
City council members plan to hold a work session in September to figure out how they’ll spend the rest of the American Rescue Plan Act money.