Pa. city officials to use $1.5M in stimulus funds to buy emergency vehicles

City leaders have purchased five unmarked police cars, three K-9 vehicles, an ambulance and refurbishment of an ambulance chassis with the money

Michael DiVittorio
The Tribune-Review, Greensburg

PENN HILLS, Pa. — Penn Hills officials have authorized spending about $1.5 million in federal stimulus funds on new police vehicles and ambulances.

Manager Scott Andrejchak said a budget amendment was approved in July to use some of the municipality's American Rescue Plan Act money to cover the purchases.

Penn Hills was given about $18 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds.
Penn Hills was given about $18 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds. (Photo/Penn Hills EMS)

They include five unmarked police cars, three K-9 vehicles, an ambulance and refurbishment of an ambulance chassis.

Andrejchak said orders were placed late last year and purchases were made through the state's CoStars program.

The unmarked vehicles have arrived, though it is unclear when the other vehicles would be received due to supply chain issues.

Penn Hills was given about $18 million in ARPA funds.

Andrejchak said the budget amendment is in line with the federal government's standard allowance, which, according to the federal Department of Treasury, can be up to $10 million and used for government services.

"There's a whole list of things you can do with stimulus funds," Andrejchak said. "You're still having to meet the spirit and the letter of the stimulus plan, but that money is more flexible now due to the standard (allowance)."

Police Chief Ronald Como said the new vehicles will replace older cars and maintain the departments 29-vehicle fleet.

"Most of the patrol fleet was replaced last year," Como said. "There is really no change in the number of vehicles since the new ones are replacements. Each new 2022 Ford Interceptor is around $35,000, and that is not completely set up for our uses. The vehicles are coming from a dealership outside of Harrisburg, as they had availability."

Police customization, including specialty equipment for the dogs, could add several thousand dollars per vehicle.

Penn Hills EMS has seven ambulances, with the oldest being a 1987 model.

The new one costs about $308,000 and the refurbished about $225,000.

EMS supervisor Diane Fitzhenry said her department gets dispatched to about 10,000 calls per year with not all requiring transports.

"In the course of doing our business, there is significant wear and tear on these vehicles," Fitzhenry said. "I'm hoping we can get at least one of those ambulances in by the end of the year, but I'm not holding my breath."

The new LifeLine ambulance purchased through Pfund Superior Sales in Lower Burrell will replace a 2008 Ford that was manufactured by a company no longer in business.

Fitzhenry said the one being refurbished is a 2011 Chevy pickup being refitted with a 2021 or 2022 Ford 4500 chassis.

"It's less costly to refurbish," Fitzhenry said. "They replace just about everything in the ambulance. Having newer trucks reduces some of our costs because some is covered by routine maintenance, warranty work, things like that.

"This gives us a better opportunity to swap trucks in and out of service so we don't build up the wear and tear too badly. When you have a greater number of trucks you can rotate them better."

Fitzhenry has been a part of Penn Hills EMS since 2009. She thanked Andrejchak and the elected leaders for their continued support of the ambulance company.

"Council and the manager, since I've been here, have been very supportive of the EMS and we're grateful for that," she said.


(c)2022 The Tribune-Review (Greensburg, Pa.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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