New Cruisers Carry $183,000 Price Tag

Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron said there’s a “high likelihood” he will recommend Wheeling City Council spend about $183,000 to add four cruisers to the police department’s fleet.

Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger requested the additional cars following a November vote to repeal a controversial law that had required him to assign two officers to each cruiser, and subsequent implementation of new patrol procedures in January.

The city sought bids for the new cruisers last month, and Doan Ford of Belmont submitted the low bid at $29,861 per car, according to Herron.

However, that doesn’t include approximately $23,000 per car needed to outfit the vehicles with radios, cameras and other necessary equipment. The city has received a grant that will cover part of that expense, so Herron said the total cost to city taxpayers would be $45,861 per car, or $183,444 in all.

This year’s budget does not account for that expense, but with total revenue ahead of last year’s pace, Herron expects he will recommend council members support the chief’s request, but he does not know for sure when he will ask members to vote on it.

“We’re going to do everything we can to fund them,” he said of the cruisers.

The city budgets annually for the purchase of five cruisers, which are paid off over three years. Herron said he doesn’t expect that practice to change going forward, noting this would be a one-time upgrade.

“It won’t be nine cars every year,” he said.

Schwertfeger is requesting the purchase of four 2013 Ford Interceptors. In recent years the city has purchased Dodge Chargers, but Schwertfeger believes the Ford vehicles – which feature all-wheel drive and are built higher off the ground – are ideal for neighborhood patrols, while the Chargers with their more powerful engines are better suited for interstate driving.

A legal challenge to the process by which City Council initiated the referendum on the two-officer cruiser law remains pending in Ohio County Circuit Court. The Wheeling Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 38 claims council’s actions violated the city charter and West Virginia’s open meetings law, allegations city officials have described as “outright falsehoods.”