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Laidlaw may donate vehicle to police

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Monday, Feb. 25, 2002

Bethel Park - The Bethel Park Police Department soon might have a new mobile command center, thanks to a donation from Laidlaw Transit.

Chief John Mackey said the donated minibus would give the department a type of vehicle it does not have now. With it, he and other officials could coordinate efforts inside rather than standing outside the back of a sport utility vehicle.

"We would be there to see and hear and communicate with each other, as opposed to being in different locations," Mackey said. "It's all centralized. We would have the communications and the work space we need."

Melissa Hodge, operations manager for Laidlaw Transit Services in Bethel Park, said she is waiting for the company's corporate office to approve the donation. She could not say when a response is expected.

In November, Laidlaw donated a minibus to Air Search Rescue, a nonprofit organization that provides search and recovery services in western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, the West Virginia panhandle and Maryland. Air Search Rescue responded to the crash of United Flight 93 in Shanksville on Sept. 11.

Anthony Rozzano, commanding officer of Air Search Rescue, said the donated vehicle will be used by the dive team that is a joint venture between his organization and the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office. He said the vehicle is being painted and should be in service in April.

Rozzano said the vehicle was desperately needed. Because of the costs the organization incurred in responding to the Sept. 11 plane crash, Air Search Rescue could not afford to buy a vehicle on its own, he said.

"I don't know how to put it in words. We are a charitable organization and we depend on donations," he said. "They were a blessing in disguise. Laidlaw is the type of people who are very concerned about the community. They went out of their way to help us. They should be commended."

Mackey said the police department does not currently have any vehicle like the one that would be donated to Bethel Park. The department's fleet consists of 13 Ford Crown Victorias and three Ford Explorers.

Mackey said he recently viewed seven vehicles at Laidlaw that could be donated and focused on two that had been driven 100,000 or more miles.

"They have a very rigorous maintenance program for those vehicles," he said. "They assured me that even though the mileage might be high, they are very well maintained."

Mackey said outfitting the vehicle with markings and equipment could cost about $2,000. He said the minibus would be large enough to hold tables, chairs, computers and radio equipment.

Mackey said the mobile command post would be used for serious accidents, major fires, school incidents and natural disasters.

"It's one of those things you hope you won't have a need for it, but if you do it's nice to have," Mackey said. "It's not something that's going to be used on a daily basis."

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