- The Washington Times - Friday, June 28, 2002

D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson yesterday said the council needs to study whether the Metropolitan Police Department should continue its vehicle maintenance contract with a private company.
Mrs. Patterson, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said she would try to block approval of a proposed contract that would allow the police department to continue using private car maintenance companies until the study is completed.
"The D.C. auditor should look at this contract," said Mrs. Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat.
She cited the Equity and Contracting Act, which requires a city agency to justify the hiring of a private company for work that could be done by city workers. The 3-year-old law also requires a 5 percent savings when an agency hires a company for work that had been done by city employees.
Mrs. Patterson made her comments in response to a report yesterday in The Washington Times that one of every five D.C. police cars is in need of repair but officials have no plan for returning the vehicles to service as the city prepares for Fourth of July activities amid terrorist threats.
Officers are cannibalizing wrecked cars for parts, the police department's garage is packed, and no new cars have been ordered, The Times found.
Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey yesterday said he thinks it is better to have a private company repair vehicles, but added that if the City Council provides enough funds, he will hire mechanics.
"I think we went down this route before where the department was handling it own fleet," Chief Ramsey said. "They can do all the auditing they want to, but they need to be prepared if they want to internally do it to provide proper funding to have it properly run."
The police department has never shown that its $3.6 million car-repair contract with Serco Management Services Inc. has saved money.
The department has about 1,300 vehicles, of which about 900 are front-line marked police cars. The Times found that more than 200 cars are awaiting repairs at the department's garage at Montana and West Virginia avenues NE.
Tony Bullock, spokesman for D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, said the mayor does not believe there is a police car crisis. "We do not have a district that is reporting a shortage of cars. You are creating a perception of a crisis out there," he said.
Only 6 percent of the department's vehicles are out of service, Mr. Bullock said, adding that he did not know what percentage of marked patrol vehicles need repairs.
Chief Ramsey yesterday said he acknowledged there have been problems getting repaired cars back on the streets and that the department has not quickly performed major mechanical and body repairs.
"It is not to say there has been a problem with turnaround time, but there is a reason for bidding this thing out again," he said.
Last year, Chief Ramsey announced that the car maintenance contract would be rebid. The decision came after The Times had run a series of stories about the contract's budget overruns. Serco has operated on a month-to-month contractual basis since October.
Eric Coard, chief executive director of corporate support for the police department, said Wednesday that the contract was almost ready to be sent to the D.C. Council for approval next month. He would not say whether Serco would be rehired.


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