Police costs an issue in Brackenridge mayoral race
Police department costs appear to be the prime issue in the pursuit of the Democratic nomination for Brackenridge mayor.
Mayor Tom Kish, an Allegheny Ludlum retiree, is seeking the nomination and a second four-year term.
He is being challenged for the nomination by Joseph Nasser, a retired state liquor store manager and former Highlands school director.
There are no Republicans on the May 21 primary ballot.
Oversight of the police department is the single major statutory responsibility held by mayors in borough government.
“After reviewing Mayor Kish's policies, I believe that they are spending too much money on overtime,” Nasser said. “I would like to cut down on that and use the money that is saved to repair streets in Brackenridge.”
Nasser said that $11,200 has been spent on overtime in the first four months of this year and believes that is too much.
Nasser thinks that the hiring of a fifth full-time officer, for which Kish strongly argued, was not needed. He said the borough should have relied on part-time officers to supplement the department.
“I would like to hire two part-timers and schedule them for 20 to 25 hours per week,” Nasser said. “When full-timers go on vacation, we can schedule them and eliminate the overtime.”
He conceded that the police contract could pose an obstacle to that but said he would try to reopen the contract and negotiate more favorable language.
Kish, however, argues that hiring the fifth full-time officer has given residents more for their tax dollar.
“I got a full-time officer hired at no expense to the taxpayers,” he said. “I've been using the overtime money that we were using. I'm using it on a full-time officer for more protection on the street, more drug work.”
He said the borough had been spending $70,000 a year on police overtime before the fifth full-time officer was hired.
“A full-time officer's salary is half of that,” Kish said. “You can't judge it just on three months.”
“The money was researched, everything was researched with the fifth full-time officer,” he said. “If you don't have the fifth full-time officer, then the overtime would stay at about $70,000.”
He said that overtime has to be offered to the lowest salaried officer first and from there it goes up the pay scale. If none of the full-time officers wants the extra hours, then part-timers can be called in to work.
Also, he said the overtime in the past two years can be misleading because of the ATI-Allegheny Ludlum mill construction project.
He said overtime paid to officers who are called out to work on traffic control for the project, is reimbursed to the borough by Ludlum.
As for how he views the mayor's role beyond the police department, Kish said it involves meeting with residents and taking their calls so that he can take their concerns to council.
“It's definitely more than just the police department,” he said. “I've got 3,000 residents who call me about their problems.”
Nasser said he views the mayor's role as being a watchdog for borough residents, particularly in the area of spending.
“There's a lot of things that are going on right now with them spending money, and I would voice my opinion,” he said.
Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.