- The Washington Times - Friday, June 29, 2001

Mechanics at the Metropolitan Police Department's fleet-maintenance center have stored its motorcycles — including those used to escort dignitaries — outside and unguarded because of a lack of space inside the new $2.6 million building.
After The Washington Times inquired about the motorcycles this week, mechanics moved the motorcade cycles inside. The five Harley-Davidsons, which cost $20,000 apiece, are used by the department's Special Operations Division and must be housed inside a locked building to ensure security.
The Harleys had been stored with five Honda Rebel motorcycles, which cost about $6,000 each, against a back fence in the parking lot outside the new police garage. The lot is not secured, and a reporter and photographer from The Times were able to walk to the area without being stopped.
"You never store a motorcycle outside. People will steal them. What happens is when they sit out in the rain, they fill up with water," said a police source. "Water will eventually get into the motor."
Eric Coard, the department's chief executive officer for corporate support, said he was not aware that the motorcycles were being stored outside. He also expressed surprised to hear that anyone could walk onto the lot of the garage facility.
"I didn't know that. I was out there today, but I didn't walk around the perimeter," Mr. Coard said. "The fence should secure them."
The storage of the motorcycles was discovered during an investigation by the The Times of fleet-maintenance services, which are contracted out to Serco Management Services Inc. to save money.
The Times has found that the department has had cost overruns of nearly $1 million and that the contract was mismanaged, allowing Serco to overbill the department and charge for unnecessary repairs.
Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey has ordered the contract be rebid for the next fiscal year, beginning Oct. 1.
Police sources said the new building, which was opened about two weeks ago at West Virginia and Montana avenues NE, is so crowded there is no extra storage space for the motorcycles. The new motorcycle garage is about one-third the size of the old motorcycle garage on South Capitol Street SW.
The police department leased the old, three-story building for about $1 million a year and decided to build the new single-story garage to save money. The old building had enough space to store many police cars and motorcycles inside. Now they are stored on an open parking lot surrounded by a chain-link fence.
"There's just no room in the new building for anything," said a police source. "They took up so much space for private offices. It was designed poorly."
"You can tell whoever designed this place has never worked in a garage before," said another source familiar with the building.
The new building does not have a garage specifically built for the police department's command bus. The old building had a secured garage for the bus, which is used as a mobile headquarters during major events and is supposed to be stored inside because of all the electronics.
The department is still having to lease the old maintenance building to store the bus as well as house the Mobile Crime Unit and the radio shop. Mobile Crime Unit officers are supposed to move into a new building in September, while a location for the radio shop has not been decided, an officer said.
Mr. Coard said they have not decided on where the command bus will be stored. "Maybe we can built a hut for it," he said.
Besides storage problems at the new building, there is also an apparent design flaw in the vehicle lifts. Serco mechanics said they have complained that the lifts were installed too close together, with no place to run if a car slips off. "If you step off to the side, you are under another car," a mechanic said.
Another Serco worker said they had to move the tools to the front of the bay, rather than having them closer to the lifts in order to make the areas safer.
Mr. Coard said he began looking into whether the lifts are installed properly about two weeks ago, when he was asked by The Times if they were properly installed. He said an engineering report is expected today.

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