Leechburg adds 2 part-time police officers

| Wednesday, April 16, 2014, 8:57 a.m.

Leechburg Area students won't be the only ones in the borough seeing their security officer in uniform.

Roger Kaufman, 50, of Harrison was one of two people hired by Leechburg Council on Tuesday as a part-time police officer.

He joins the Leechburg Police Department seven months after the Leechburg Area School Board hired him as the district's school resource officer.

Leechburg Mayor Shawn Lerch said Kaufman will be an “invaluable” addition to the police force, since he's familiar with the area's youth, and vice versa.

“We're really working to get our police force well acquainted with our residents,” he said. “The kids all know him. They see him every day, and it will be a familiar face for them on the street.”

Kaufman's privileges as a part-time officer will not carry over to his responsibilities with Leechburg Area, where he will continue to serve in a separate capacity, according to Lerch.

The police department, however, has discussed with district officials the possibility of equipping Kaufman with a radio to communicate with borough police during school hours, he said.

Brian Ravotti, Leechburg Area board member, said he is unaware of any discussions, but supports establishing communication between Kaufman and Leechburg police.

Other board members could not be reached for comment.

Hired along with Kaufman on Tuesday was Christian Madison, an ATI-Allegheny Ludlum employee who served Leechburg as a part-time officer from 2000 to 2006.

Kaufman and Madison will be used on an as-needed basis at $8 per hour. Once they've completed the requisite training after one year, their rates could increase up to $14 per hour, Lerch said.

The new additions give the Leechburg Police Department seven part-time officers it can use on a regular basis, according to Lerch. That's in addition to four others, who are registered part-timers but haven't been used in years.

The department is led by Chief Mike Diebold and three full-time officers.

With a growing police force, the borough agreed to buy a parking lot on Tuesday that could serve as the site of a new police department down the road, according to Councilman Tom Foster.

Council agreed to pay Art Kunkle, owner of Curran Funeral Homes, as much as $10,000 for the 10-spot, 300-square-foot parking lot next to the borough building along Market Street.

The borough building was Kunkle's funeral home until he opened a new one several years ago across First Street. When that home opened, Kunkle gifted the former funeral home to the borough, but maintained ownership of the attached parking lot for any spillover.

Councilman Dan Logero said the borough will establish a payment plan with Kunkle in the coming months.

Sewer separation project

The second portion of Leechburg's sewer separation project will cost about $8.77 million, according to Ben Bothell of Senate Engineering.

Senate, the Harmar-based company that Leechburg contracted for the project, will submit its permits and work plans next month to the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Investment Authority (PennVEST). If PennVEST decides to approve the plans in July, the borough will have four to six months to secure its plans for final state approval.

The borough will look to secure a long-term, 1 percent interest loan from PennVEST to complete the work.

The project will likely begin sometime early next year, according to Council President Tony DeFilippi.

The project, which was mandated in 2009 by the state Department of Environmental Protection, calls for the separation of the borough's stormwater and sanitary sewer lines.

Under the old system, small amounts of untreated sewage are sometimes diverted into the Kiski River when the conjoined pipes are inundated with heavy rain.

Foster said about 60 percent of the borough will be affected by the work.

Braden Ashe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4673 or bashe@tribweb.com.

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