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Plum poised to restore police K-9 program

Michael DiVittorio
| Monday, Nov. 6, 2017, 10:27 a.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 officials plan to reinstate the borough's police K-9 program and approve a new policy this month.

“We have the policy finalized and we're going to discuss it at the meeting on Monday, and probably approve it at the regular meeting,” Councilman Dave Seitz said. “I'm very happy we were able to continue with the dog program under a policy that we think will be more beneficial to the borough and actually expand the program from one dog into two.”

Council's workshop meeting is 7 p.m. Monday at the borough building. The regular meeting is scheduled for Nov. 14 at the same time.

The plan is to have one new dog for next year and a second in 2019.

“We don't want to do two brand new dogs at once,” council Vice President Mike Dell said. “That would be too much down time in that department for training.”

Council voted unanimously June 13 to end the program effective Dec. 31.

Some officials said it wasn't worth the $20,000-per-year cost because the dog is available only three shifts a week.

The new policy, also referred to by some borough officials as a contract, has not been made public.

Seitz said it will give police Chief Jeff Armstrong more scheduling and overtime control of the dog unit.

“We didn't have a lot of flexibility in the previous program,” said Seitz.

Officer Lee Temple, 48, has been the department's dog trainer since January 1999, first with a German shepherd named Tyler that retired in 2007.

Voda, a Belgian Malinois, replaced Tyler that year. Voda is expected to retire this year.

Both dogs were trained in narcotics, tracking and apprehension. After retirement, Voda will live with Temple, who will continue as a dog handler once a new canine is acquired.

“If everything works out the way it should I'm looking forward to it,” Temple said. “I enjoy doing what I'm doing.”

Temple, a certified master trainer, would take care of getting the new dog ready for action.

“I'm glad to see it reinstated and I think the new contract that the chief wrote really helps the department move forward with this program,” Dell said.

Temple said he has not seen the new policy or discussed it with any councilmen.

The chief provided a review of the program and outlined what would be needed to maintain it. 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.

Dell said the borough plans to lease three new 2017 Ford Explorers for the police department for three years at an annual cost of $43,500.

One of those SUVs will be customized for the police dog while the other two will be used for regular patrols.

As far as purchasing the dog, Dell said they are “working with some foundations to see if the borough can get grant money.”Council earmarked $5,000 in the 2018 budget for food, veterinarian care and other canine expenses.

“The budget's not finalized yet,” said Dell, finance committee chairman. “We're still going back and forth on capital expenses.”

Council plans to formally adopt next year's budget in December.

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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