Cheswick to seek proposals for contracting for police coverage
Cheswick Council has agreed to seek proposals from neighboring communities interested in providing police services for the borough.
Council President Vickie Roolf said the request does not mean disbanding the borough's force is a done deal.
“The only way we can do this is put out the request for proposals and see what we get,” she said.
Roolf and Councilman Jonathan Skedel, who was absent from Tuesday night's meeting, have been vocal proponents of reviewing options to see if they can shave the borough's annual $375,000 police budget.
At an October public hearing, officials from Harmar, Springdale and Springdale Township expressed an interest in providing police coverage, but no costs were presented.
Cheswick's formal request requires proposals to include an annual cost for coverage.
Other required terms, as drafted by borough Solicitor Tony Colangelo, include:
• At least a five-year contract.
• At least one officer must be on duty in Cheswick at all times.
• Officers must make regular patrols of the borough's water plant and water tank; patrol during school arrival and departure times; and respond during any fire or other emergency calls.
Council also wants the proposals to include estimated response times into the borough; rates for extra duties like patrols for special events, lockdowns for jailed prisoners and court appearances; and details on whether the communities would hire Cheswick's officers and buy Cheswick's police equipment.
Cheswick employs two full-time officers, including Chief Bob Scott, and about a half-dozen part-time officers, Roolf said.
Scott could not be reached for comment late Tuesday.
Colangelo's draft request included the stipulation that providers would have to patrol at least 1,800 miles of Cheswick roads per month. But after Mayor Dan Carroll read the police report that noted Cheswick officers patrolled more than 3,000 miles in the last month, council bumped up the requirement to 3,000 miles.
Carroll said he does not support changing police coverage.
“I don't want to mess with our police department,” he said. “I think the presence of a police department is crucial. Our crime rate is down, and that's due to our police.”
Council approved soliciting the proposals in a 5-0 vote, with Roolf, Brian Harvanek, Peter Holka, Sherman Kephart and Frank Meledandri in favor. In addition to Skedel, Councilman Neal Hohman was absent.
Meledandri said contracting out police services should provide at least the same level of service for less cost in order for him to consider it.
Kephart said he'd also need to know the “legacy” costs of the current police department, namely the amount the borough will pay for the pensions of three officers. Kephart said those costs should be included when council considers any changes.
“I want to see the whole package,” he said.
Roolf said a study of the pension costs is due in December.
Council wants the proposals to be submitted before Dec. 11 so they can be discussed along with the 2013 budget at that night's council meeting.
Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or firstname.lastname@example.org.