A New York town has sidelined its entire fleet of police, fire and garbage vehicles after declaring a state of emergency over what the mayor called a lack of critical maintenance — leaving the blame at the foot of another city official who allegedly failed to pay $500,000 in invoices for city vehicles.
The mayor of Mount Vernon declared the state of emergency, alleging gross mismanagement by the Westchester County city's comptroller. Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard said that the issue became a matter of public safety.
An inspection of the balding tires on the town's garbage trucks appears to back up that argument, which is why the whole fleet of 14 trucks is now off the road. The same goes for 19 Mount Vernon patrol cars and one fire engine.
"It's not just the mechanical ... some of these vehicles, the clutches, our have to use sticks so that they can work the brake and the clutch," the mayor said.
Patterson-Howard said that the issues of aging trucks and a lack of maintenance are not newfound problems. In 2019, one of the trucks malfunctioned and crashed into a home.
"Over the past few years, it's been hard to challenge replacement parts, and because of the lack of cooperation with our comptroller, over the last six months to a year we haven't been able to get any replacement parts," said another town official. "If we put (the vehicles) out on the road, we'll be doing more harm. Could cause an accident, harm our drivers or residents."
Mayor Patterson-Howard did not hold back in her criticism of the city's comptroller, saying that the thousands in unpaid city invoices were a direct result of "gross negligence and dereliction of duty."
"She cut back a few checks today for fleet maintenance. These are checks that could have been cut weeks ago, or months ago, and we might have been able to avoid this," said Patterson-Howard.
Garbage pick-up was already suspended Friday, as leaders work to borrow trucks from nearby Yonkers and New York City. Street sweepers, fire trucks and even police cars have been pulled from the road. Officials said that if someone in the town does call 911, someone will still arrive, however.
Several attempts to reach the city comptroller late Thursday were unsuccessful. City leaders are pleading for her to pay money that has already been set aside.
"Whether it's politics or ego, it's a dangerous game. Put it aside so we can deal with the safety of the public," the mayor said.
There will be a special city council meeting on Friday, where the mayor said the comptroller will be compelled to pay bills.