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Mt. Vernon mayor declares emergency over lack of 'critical maintenance' to city vehicles

Mount Vernon officials say the collection of waste must be suspended for the rest of the month because many of the city’s garbage trucks are not safe to operate.

News 12 Staff

Jul 15, 2021, 11:00 AM

Updated 1,068 days ago

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The mayor of Mount Vernon has declared a state of emergency, citing what she says is a lack of critical maintenance impacting nearly the entire fleet of city vehicles.
In a letter, Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard said the state of emergency was declared due to "a public health and safety crisis that has threatened the public health of the City of Mount Vernon."
The letter pointed the blame squarely at Comptroller Deborah Reynolds. It cited "gross negligence and dereliction of duty by the comptroller, who has failed to process and ay invoices approximately $500,000 for critical parts and maintenance of police, fire and public work vehicles." 
The letter added, "As a result, nearly our entire fleet of vehicles has been impacted by the crisis."
Mount Vernon officials previously announced that the collection of waste must be suspended for the rest of the month because many of the city’s garbage trucks are not safe to operate.
Department of Public Works crews say they have been riding and working with the trucks under difficult conditions for a long time. They say it's come to the point where it's simply not safe for these trucks to be out on the street.
Mount Vernon DPW Commissioner Damani Bush says bald and shredded tires are just a part of the problem with his fleet of 14 trucks.
He says some of the trucks are 25 years old, leak oil, have worn-down brake pads and more.
That’s why Bush and Mayor Patterson-Howard say they made the drastic decision to suspend garbage collection for this month.
"As of right now, we're shutting everything down, enough is enough,” says the mayor. “We hate to do it to the residents, but it's come to this point now."
This has been an ongoing problem for the city.
A runaway city garbage truck slammed into a car and a house in 2019.
More recently, crews say one of the trucks slid down a hill and into an intersection because of the tires on Wednesday.
Patterson-Howard says much of the problem stems from the ongoing battles with Comptroller Reynolds.
She says the city owes about $45,000 to its tire company.
While the city has $20 million in its American Rescue Plan account, the mayor says the city comptroller is solely in charge of the money and is withholding those funds.
The comptroller didn’t want to go on camera but she did tell say off-camera, “Mayor Shawyn Patterson-Howard should stop making excuses why she can’t do her job, that is simply to do the day-to-day functions of the city, required of the elected mayor.
”The mayor says she’s working with New York City and other municipalities to borrow trucks.
In the meantime, there will be no trash Friday, but city officials are optimistic it may resume on some fashion by Monday.
Patterson-Howard said in a news conference Thursday evening that New York City will be loaning Mount Vernon eight sanitation trucks for at least 90 days, which could be renewed. She said the city will also be working with Yonkers to share some of its vehicles over the next few days so they can pick up garbage until the trucks from New York City arrive.
The mayor said that she will also be working with the City Council to pass legislation to free up money to rent trucks going forward and to ensure emergency bills in the DPW, fire and police departments are being addressed. She said they have identified money through the American Rescue Plan going forward that will allow them to purchase several million dollars' worth of sanitation trucks, police cars and fire equipment, but needs to make sure that the comptroller releases the funds that are already in the coffers there.
DPW Commissioner Bush said in the news conference that there will be no trash pickup on Friday, but the south-side collection will take place on Saturday. The normal north-side collection will resume on Tuesday.


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