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New Florence considers regional police department

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By Jewels Phraner
Wednesday, April 24, 2013, 9:01 p.m.
 

New Florence Borough has appointed Mayor Neva Gindlesperger to an advisory committee that will research the feasibility of a regional police department.

At Seward Borough and St. Clair Township meetings earlier this month, officials appointed one municipal leader and two citizens each to serve on the committee.

Gindlesperger will be responsible for finding two residents to help represent New Florence.

“We felt if we can get better coverage for the same amount of money, why not?” St. Clair Supervisor Fred Clark said to New Florence officials.

“I think it's something worthwhile to look into,” said Dennis Rudnik, a St. Clair citizen representative. “You either want better protection or you don't.”

The group will see if Fairfield Township and Bolivar Borough officials are interested and then seek state assistance to conduct a feasibility study.

“If the state says, ‘Yes, this is feasible,' then it will go to a referendum vote,” giving residents in those communities a chance to vote the proposal, said Bill Bough, who serves on the committee for Seward.

Consideration of a regional police force is nothing new to these communities.

New Florence solicitor Scott Mears Jr. said borough officials were approached in 1995 and expressed interest, but nothing ever came of that proposal.

“Just because of what happened last time, I have no great expectations of what will come of this,” he told New Florence council. “But there's no real harm in trying again. There's no cost to starting some discussion or having the state conduct a survey.”

“It never hurts to have a group sit down and start to trust each other and begin discussions,” Councilwoman Sharon McGinnis agreed.

“I think it's all going to boil down to particulars, but I think we should talk,” Gindlesperger said. “There's nothing wrong with entering discussions. I think coverage is an issue and it's worth discussing and having a conversation.”

In other news, council and the borough recreation board are still struggling to get their finances in order.

A state law required that the recreation board relinquish its finance for borough officials to manage.

It's taken officials several months to figure out how to transfer the bank account to the borough, leaving a lawn mower repairman awaiting payment for a $700 bill for six months.

At last week's meeting, Sam Andrews, who owns Ligonier-based Andrews Sales and Service, asked council to consider paying the outstanding bill for repairing the recreation board's lawn mower.

Andrews said he called the borough more than 30 times over the last few months.

“As soon as we get the (recreation board's) account changed over, we'll take care of it,” President Kelly Luther said. “This has been an ongoing process. Your bill is not being ignored.”

Andrews asked if $75 in late fees would be paid and, although there was no formal vote, several council members said the borough would not be paying the late fees.

Later in the meeting, council voted to pay the bill — with no late fees — with recreation board money or borough money, whichever method was more prompt.

After the meeting, Luther refused to comment on why council would pay late fees that had accrued for the delinquent bill.

Jewels Phraner is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-1218 or jphraner@tribweb.com.

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