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Plum working to save K-9 unit without raising taxes

Michael DiVittorio
| Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, 5:00 p.m.
Plum K-9 Officer Lee Temple and his dog Voda at work at the high school.
Lillian DeDomenic | For the Tribune-Review
Plum K-9 Officer Lee Temple and his dog Voda at work at the high school.

Plum council may keep or expand its police department's K-9 unit after previously voting to disband it.

Mike Dell, finance committee chairman and council vice president, said his committee is crafting next year's budget to include options of having one to three dogs at the police department.

“We are still working on it,” Dell said about the spending plan that will be adopted in December. “We have the direction now to budget up to three dogs. We're trying to incorporate the program without any tax increase.”

Council voted unanimously June 12 to end the program Dec. 31. Some officials said it isn't worth the $20,000 a year cost. Since then, residents have packed council meetings and circulated petitions in an effort to save the program. The push by the public led councilors in August to announce the program would be reexamined.

Councilman Dave Seitz said police Chief Jeff Armstrong has provided a review of the K-9 program and outlined what would be needed to maintain it with one dog or to add to the force. That report included:

• Replacing the K-9 SUV at an estimated cost of $40,000.

• Approximate cost of a dog is $8,000-9,000, which could be offset by grants and donations.

• Estimated cost of yearly care and training for a dog is $13,670.

• Contractual obligations include “hidden costs” like having to pay the K-9 officer overtime for training sessions.

“We're not opposed to the program,” Seitz said. “We're trying to keep the program and actually improve the program. We're moving down the road like we said we would.”

Seitz and other council members said the current contract governing the K-9 unit has to be reworked to make the program viable. The board met in executive session last week to talk about the contract but did not say what was discussed afterwards.

The contract requires that the borough pay for health care and maintenance of dogs that retire from the force. K-9 Officer Lee Temple's Belgian Malinois, Voda, is scheduled to retire this year. Temple's last dog retired in 2007. Temple said he has not had any discussion about the program with council for about two months.

“I'm glad that council's reconsidering the position” Temple said. “It's valuable to the community. I hope it can be worked out soon. I'm thankful for the people that supported me and the program. This is what I love to do.”

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2367, mdivittorio@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.

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