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Dan Hust | Democrat

THE INTERIOR OF Woodridge's 2007 Ford Crown Victoria police cruiser (above) has the appearance of a fire, but heat from the muffler reportedly melted the underside of the back seat – without flames.

Sitting In a Hot Seat in Woodridge

By Dan Hust
WOODRIDGE — August 14, 2007 — Score one for the Village of Woodridge.
The village’s sole police car, a 2007 Ford Crown Victoria, has sat inoperable at the M&M dealership in Liberty for the past three months while Woodridge has wrestled with Ford over repairs.
On Friday, the village found out it had won – Ford will fix the damage, no ifs, ands or buts.
Back in May, one of the village’s police officers was sitting in the parked, idling car when it stopped running.
Turns out heat from the muffler had melted wires leading to the ABS and fuel pump systems, along with the underside of the Crown Vic’s back seat.
A sympathetic M&M agreed to repair the cruiser, which had just 2,000 miles on its odometer. But Ford itself demanded the village sign an indemnification form, according to board members.
“They said they’d fix the problem if we wouldn’t hold them responsible for future problems,” said Village Trustee Joan Collins.
Village officials weren’t willing to do that, however, especially after a Ford engineer told them the malfunction may possibly have emanated from a design flaw – an allegedly insufficient heat shield over the muffler.
Meanwhile, Ford obtained a replacement cruiser for the village from Massachusetts – which itself suffered a minor breakdown mere days into the job (repairs have since put it back on the road).
Village Attorney Jeff Kaplan said that’s what the controversial agreement really sprang from – Ford’s desire to be held harmless should a liability claim arise from use of the replacement vehicle in the highly dangerous world of law enforcement. He believes Ford never intended to ignore its warranty responsibilities with the original vehicle. (Ford could not be reached for comment.)
In the meantime, Ford amended its proposed agreement with the village, but trustees were still wary, instructing Kaplan last week to tell Ford that they wouldn’t sign something that compromised their future rights.
“Give us a new car or fix it – we’re not signing anything,” Collins said at the board’s August 6 meeting.
The rest of the board agreed, and Kaplan sent a letter to Ford that week saying as much.
On Friday, the world’s second largest auto manufacturer apparently took one of Sullivan County’s smallest villages’ concerns to heart, granting their request for unconditional repairs.
M&M Service Manager William Clark, who’s eagerly been awaiting the green light from Ford, said the car was already in the shop yesterday and, pending an engineer’s official report on the cause of the malfunction, will soon have it again ready for village service.

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