Atwater police awarded DUI grant, approved for new police vehicles

rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.comNovember 18, 2013 

— The Atwater Police Department has been awarded a $17,740 traffic safety grant to combat drunk driving in the city, officials announced Monday.

The grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety will be used for anti-DUI programs aimed at preventing deaths and injuries on Atwater roadways, according to Lori Waterman, the city’s grants manager .

This is the second year Atwater has been awarded the grant, which police officials said is difficult to attain. Last year’s award was close to $20,000, according to Atwater police Lt. Sam Joseph.

“It’s very competitive and you have to prove to the state why you deserve this by showing your statistics and need,” Joseph said.

The money will be used to buy equipment and pay for officers’ overtime during special operations and DUI checkpoint set-up, Joseph said. Atwater experienced no fatalities in alcohol- and drug-related collisions last year, but two people were injured in DUI-related crashes.

“I think it’s a big problem everywhere, but in the city of Atwater we do what we can to prevent it,” Joseph said. “We get drunk drivers to the point where we make them avoid Atwater.”

In other police news, the department will replace five police cruisers that have more than 100,000 miles on their odometers. “We need them because the other vehicles are breaking down,” Joseph said.

The City Council last week approved four-year lease agreements with First Municipal Leasing Corp. for the five new patrol vehicles. The total cost of $63,600 is included in the police department budget for the fiscal year, with money coming from Measure H funds.

The vehicles to be leased are Ford Interceptor sedans that will be purchased from Razzari Ford in Merced, according to city documents. The Police Department operates a fleet of nine patrol vehicles. The retired cars will be used for the city’s volunteer program, Joseph said.

Sun-Star staff writer Ramona Giwargis can be reached at (209) 385-2477 or rgiwargis@mercedsunstar.com.

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