Rockford's Independent Newspaper

City to replace police cars with SUVs

ROCKFORD – Rockford aldermen, on Monday, approved the purchase of 28 city police squads, including 11 unmarked vehicles.

The majority of the financed vehicles will be Ford Police Interceptor SUVs, which officials say are cheaper to own over the term of the initial five-year loan than pursuit sedans, which are predicted to be obsolete in coming years.

The 28 vehicles are valued at approximately $1.1 million. The city is financing 100 percent of the purchase price and will begin repaying the loan next January at a cost of $271,000 a year next January.

Chief Dan O’Shea said having SUVs instead of sedans will help in variety of ways, especially in winter. They are also roomier and will already have dashboard cameras.

For the remaining squads that do not have dash cams, the city will utilize a $200,000 grant from the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board. About two-dozen squad cars currently have dash cams.

Some of the vehicles currently in the police fleet are more than 12 years old. They include cars that were once standard squads but have since been passed down to staff who use them on a less-limited basis such as school resource officers.

Aldermen tabled a vote on the rest of the city’s fleet. Ald. Kevin Frost said he’d like to re-evaluate financing options on vehicles the city will need over the next four years.

“It’s (approximately) $20 million worth of assets we’re buying,” Frost said, referring to the entire package. “To me, as someone who served on the financial task force and tried to cut paper clips and cut color copying costs, this is a large spend.”

Frost added that he would like to see the city’s fleet tracked more efficiently to determine on an individual basis which cars could be repaired.

“I really don’t think we can afford to purchase and finance $20 million worth of vehicles over four years unless they all need to be replaced.”

In other business, Mayor Tom McNamara named Karl Franzen the city’s new community and economic development director.

“Karl joined the city in 2016 and has been taking on additional roles and responsibilities from the very beginning,” McNamara said. “Several months ago, I appointed him business liaison for the entire city – making him the sole point person for anyone with questions or concerns about establishing or operating a business in Rockford.”

As business liaison, Franzen leads the Doing Business Task Force and facilitates the Business First collaboration between the city, Rock River Water Reclamation District, Winnebago County and the Small Business Development Center.

Prior to coming to City of Rockford, he worked as economic development coordinator for the Rockford Area Economic Development Council; research and legislative assistant for the Wisconsin State Assembly; and the director of workforce development at the Portage County Business Council Foundation in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. He holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh.

Franzen is currently the economic development coordinator. His new appointment is slated for approval by the City Council at the June 4 meeting. R.

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