Windsor to buy three new police cars

Published 9:51 pm Tuesday, July 18, 2017

By Stephen Faleski

Special to the News-Herald

Windsor’s Town Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to authorize the purchase of three new vehicles for the town’s police department.

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According to Town Manager Michael Stallings, the purchase of the vehicles was planned for in the town’s 2017-2018 budget. As they have done in the past, the town intends to once again do a lease purchase for the vehicles, which will allow the police department to take delivery of the vehicles during the current fiscal year.

The budgeted amount for the purchase is $120,000, half of which will be paid this fiscal year, and the other half next year. However, the police department expects the total cost of the vehicles to be around $115,000, or $5,000 under budget.

Windsor Chief of Police R.D. “Dan” Riddle explained to the council that the vehicles would be purchased black and have the doors painted white and lettered. However, one will remain unmarked. To save on cost, the radios, radar, weapons mounts and computer mounts installed in three older vehicles slated to be sold as surplus will be removed and installed into the new vehicles.

The council also voted unanimously to appropriate several sources of funding for the town’s police and fire departments. One is a Justice Assistant Grant from the state Department of Criminal Justice Services in the amount of $2,263, intended to be used for the purchase of new body armor for Windsor’s police officers. Another is insurance proceeds in the amount of $4,443 to cover the cost of repairs to a police vehicle damaged during an incident at the gas station at the corner of Route 460 and 258 several months ago. The third was an additional $2,000 from a Virginia Department of Fire Programs grant for Windsor’s volunteer fire department.

Both the insurance proceeds and the fire department grant were appropriated for fiscal year 2016-2017. The JAG grant, however, is intended for the current fiscal year. The reason for this is that all of the insurance statements and repair estimates for the police vehicle are from the prior fiscal year and the original $9,000 the fire department received from the state grant was likewise appropriated in the prior fiscal year.

Stallings explained that when the state has extra money left over in its budgeted grant funds for a fiscal year, it divides it among the organizations that were awarded grants during that year. In this case, the Windsor VFD received an additional $2,000, making its total grant for fiscal year 2016-2017 $11,000.

In other business, the council discussed an issue concerning the town’s recent display of fireworks on July 4. Several council members reported that there were five to six civilian-owned drones in the sky during the show and expressed concerns that the operation of such craft during fireworks could be unsafe. Councilman N. Macon Edwards III also said he had heard reports that some people had released luminaries of the type that levitate into the air like miniature hot air balloons, and that one of these had struck a power line but caused no damage.

Chief Riddle said regulatory authority for civilian-operated drones falls to the Federal Aviation Administration and that he did not have the lawful authority to do anything about drone incidents at the local level. Councilman Walter Bernacki said that the FAA requires all civilian drones to be registered on the FAA website and that on the site, there is a list informing people of where and when they can and cannot fly them.

“The tough part is identifying who is flying these things,” Bernacki said.

The council concluded by discussing the repeated absence of a member of the town’s planning commission and ultimately voted to remove that person from the planning commission. According to Councilman Greg Willis, Deborah Hicks, the now-former planning commission member in question, had allegedly missed more than three consecutive meetings without notice or explanation.

According to Town Attorney Wallace Brittle, state law allows the local governing body to remove a planning commission member if he or she misses three consecutive meetings or four in a year.

“This is a tough motion to make; I don’t want to hurt or upset anyone’s feelings based on their personal challenges, but you have a personal responsibility to let us know what’s going on,” Willis said.

Willis’ motion to remove Hicks passed 6-1 with Councilman Tony Ambrose as the dissenting vote.

The new appointee to fill out the remainder of Hicks’ term is Larissa Williams of Church Street, who was appointed following a recommendation from Bernacki.