HAZLETON – City Council approved a resolution Wednesday night for the acquisition of five new police vehicles under a lease/purchase proposal that over five years is estimated to cost $196,921.
The vote on the resolution was 4-0. Councilman Keith Bast didn't attend the meeting.
Police Chief Frank DeAndrea said the proposed acquisition includes Ford Interceptor SUVs, which are intended to make the department more mobile and versatile as well as enhance its professional appearance in navigating the city.
He said the vehicles will be secured through Kovatch Mechanical Engineering (KME) of Nesquehoning, with Community Leasing Partners of Manhattan, Kan., providing the financing package at 3.3 percent interest.
He estimated delivery won't be until the spring.
Initially, DeAndrea's proposal came under scrutiny from Councilwoman Jean Mope. In light of the budget cuts we had to make, where do we get the extra money? she asked.
DeAndrea said funds for the acquisition are contained in the police budget he submitted. Additionally, he said, two employee hirings were not executed this year, creating more money that can be used for the vehicles.
City Administrator Steve Hahn confirmed there is funding in this year's budget for the SUVs.
Council President Jim Perry, Mope and councilmen Jack Mundie and Kevin Schadder voted in favor of the lease/purchase resolution.
Mope and Mundie also were central in a continuing political argument that involves Mayor Joseph Yannuzzi and solicitor Chris Slusser, neither of whom was in attendance.
Mope criticized Yannuzzi for his absence, but Mundie more specifically attacked Slusser, stating: We must be the only city in the country that doesn't have a solicitor at its meetings.
The were joined in their criticism by resident Dr. David Sosar, who said sarcastically while pointing at the mayor's empty chair: There, that shows you the kind of job he's doing.
Sosar asked for Yannuzzi's immediate resignation. This is nothing personal. But, rather, it has everything to do with his job performance, Sosar said.
Mope said Slusser is directed by Yannuzzi to stay away from council meetings, and while council can appoint another solicitor, that can't happen because Yannuzzi enjoys the support of a majority of council, consisting of Perry, Schadder and Bast.
In other matters, council:
• Approved a general appropriations ordinance of $50,000, for a period in 2012 extending from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31.
• Approved a first reading of a public drunkenness law proposed by Chief DeAndrea that provides for a $100 fine for violators.
• Elected Michael Pozzessere to serve on the Zoning Hearing Board, succeeding the Rev. Benjamin Medina.
• Voted to accept an amended agreement covering language on overtime and the use of personnel for mutual fire protection between the city and the borough of West Hazleton.