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Apollo hires 3 part-time police officers

| Friday, Aug. 29, 2014, 8:04 a.m.

The Apollo Police Department is getting more equipment and manpower.

Borough Council on Thursday hired three new part-time police officers. They'll be paid $12 per hour until their probationary period expires in six months, at which point their hourly rate will increase to $13.

Kyle Lewis of Kittanning, Jason Varner of Oklahoma Borough and Jared Kepple of Kiski Township will begin serving the department once they complete the appropriate certification, Apollo Mayor Jeff Held said. Each will work on an as-needed basis.

Varner and Kepple also serve as part-time police officers in Vandergrift. Lewis is an armed security guard and a former military policemen.

The three were hired directly after council accepted the resignation of Josh Dobbin, who was hired in February.

With the loss of Dobbin and the addition of three others, the Apollo Police Department numbers seven officers, all part-time.

The officers will soon have new laptop computers for the department's two squad cars.

Council authorized Held to buy two new laptops for the department.

Held said he will tap into a $5,000 fund that council allocated this year for a code enforcement officer, which they never hired. The police department has instead handled the code enforcement responsibilities.

The cost of the computers will likely not exceed $500, Held said. Current computers date back seven years.

Held requested that the department use what remains of the $5,000 fund to buy an unmarked police car. Held requested the car at the behest of Jarred Kier, Apollo's officer in charge, who did not provide a specific reason for its necessity.

Council held off deciding on whether to buy the equipment. Officials will continue to discuss the matter next month.

The borough also will begin paying Kier $30 per month to subsidize the bill for his personal cell phone. According to Held, Kier often uses his cellphone for police use and frequently overextends his data plan.

The vote came to a 3-3 split before Held broke the tie in favor of the payments. Voting against the motion was Councilman Darhl Goldinger, who works as a Kiski Township police officer.

“The police station has a phone,” Goldinger said. “All of the calls should go through the station. If he wants to use his cell phone for business, then that's his decision. We shouldn't be paying for that.”

Officials will decide next month whether the department will join the Armstrong County Narcotics Taskforce.

Joining the task force would allow officers from other departments to monitor and react to drug activity in Apollo without the officer in charge's permission, and vice versa.

The borough would pay their officers an overtime rate only when they perform task force duties outside of their regularly scheduled hours through the borough. Apollo would seek reimbursement for those hours from the county task force, which is subsidized by the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office.

Council decided to review the matter further on Solicitor Chuck Pascal's advice.

“Anytime you have officers operating in other municipalities, there's an added liability for the borough,” Pascal said. “It's something to think about.”

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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