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Cheswick Council rejects proposals to disband police

| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 12:51 a.m.

The Cheswick Police Department will remain intact — at least for now.

Council on Tuesday night turned thumbs-down on two proposals that would have disbanded the borough's police department and received its police protection from neighboring municipalities.

The specter of how much money the borough would actually save was brought into question before reviewing the proposals.

Cheswick has $343,000 budgeted for police this year.

Council voted 4-2 to reject a $182,000 proposal by Springdale Borough to supply police coverage to Cheswick.

Councilmen Jonathan Skedel and Neal Hohman voted in favor. Council members Vickie Roolf, Sherman Kephart, Brian Harvanek and Peter Holka voted no. Councilman Frank Meledandri Jr. was absent.

Then, Skedel asked council to accept a $179,000 offer from Harmar. No one else went along.

Roolf said Harmar couldn't satisfy Cheswick's requirement that an officer be stationed in the borough at all times.

In a related move, which occurred before the votes on the neighboring police coverage proposals, council accepted the resignation of full-time Officer Cindy Busch.

Kephart said savings on Busch's salary, benefits and related costs could save the borough as much as $38,000 a year Busch is replaced by part-timers.

The councilman also said a firm accounting of actual savings is needed before he would ever support disbanding the police department.

Council members also said the loss of a full-time police officer means less that would have to be contributed toward a pension.

“I don't have a calculator on me; I want to see how much this will actually save us,” Roolf said.

Borough Treasurer Tom Cale said he would “price it out for the next meeting.”

Skedel, who has favored looking at neighboring municipalities for police coverage since becoming a councilman last year, said he doesn't want to add new, full-time officers to pension costs. He said Springdale has everything Cheswick has asked for, including front and rear cameras in patrol cars and a camera on a Taser stun gun.

“It's still cheaper to go with outside services,” Skedel said. “That will save us $1 million over the next five years.”

Skedel then walked out of the meeting, to the brisk applause of audience members.

Police Chief Robert Scott is now the borough's only full-time police officer.

Kephart quoted Tom Benecki, director of the Allegheny Valley North Council of Governments, as saying that merging Cheswick police with either the Frazer, East Deer or Springdale Township departments would have such a small savings that it wouldn't benefit the communities.

Attempts to reach Benecki after the meeting were unsuccessful.

George Guido is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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