Wanted: One aging Sykesville police car

Winning $1,400 bid for '91 cruiser comes from Pocomoke City police

September 17, 1999|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Even an old car, battered by eight years and 120,000 miles of constant police work, can attract a buyer. Sykesville had three for its 1991 Ford.

With the recent addition of a fully equipped 1999 Crown Victoria to its fleet of five vehicles, the town Police Department opted to sell its oldest. Advertising and word-of-mouth drew bidders, ready to buy it sight unseen, without so much as a tire kick or test drive.

"You wouldn't think this would be a hot item," said Mayor Jonathan S. Herman.

The last time the town sold a police car, $300 was the best deal it could make. But with some new car stickers reading $25,000 and more, even a high-mileage 1991 model has market appeal. The town jumped on a $1,400 offer at the council meeting Monday.

The unmarked, white four-door sedan, stripped of its radio, siren and radar scanner, will soon be on the road to Pocomoke City.

The Eastern Shore town offered more than the other two bidders, private citizens who offered $600 and $300.

"You never know what somebody might want a police car for," said Matthew H. Candland, Sykesville town manager. "Sometimes, they just plant the cars on the road to slow down speeders."

Pocomoke City, a town of about 5,000 near the Virginia line in Worcester County, is not about to let a perfectly good car sit idle. It has miles to go before it becomes a highway decoy.

It could go home with any of the city's 15 officers who live within municipal limits. Officers commute in an official car and park it in their driveways when they are off duty.

"It's our take-home-car policy, and it gives the citizens more security," said Chief J.D. Ervin. "Officers can be there in a heartbeat."

"I am surprised anybody would want that car," said Sykesville Officer Shawn Kilgore. "It is older than the hills. At least, [the town is] small enough that our cars don't have as much mileage as the bigger departments."

The sedan is not as old as several in Pocomoke City's hodgepodge fleet of cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles, which date to the mid-1980s, said Gayle Waters, administrative assistant to Ervin.

"We have a real odd assortment of cars, a little bit of everything," Waters said. "This will be a great addition. When you have '85s and '86s, this will be like new to us."

Ervin and a deputy will soon make the drive northwest to pick up the city's purchase. The round trip will probably take a day -- time and travel that Ervin said he is willing to expend in the interest of citizen safety.

The odometer on the car reads 120,000, but police work adds untold miles, said Westminster Police Officer Howard Friedman.

"It might say 120,000, but you have to double that for idling time," he said. "Idling kills a car, when it just sits there and runs."

Mileage aside, Pocomoke City may be getting a bargain. According to the "Blue Book," a consumer guide to used car prices, a 1991 Crown Victoria in good condition is worth about $5,000. With a V-8, this police car has a powerful engine.

While Sykesville officials wonder what municipal project most needs $1,400, Candland, a fan of sturdy, older cars, is filled with regret.

"That car is in great shape," he said. "It breaks my heart to get rid of it. We just had it painted two years ago. But the older a car gets, the more the expenses increase."

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