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Irwin discusses affordability, size of police department

| Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Though Irwin Council has given the go-ahead to start looking for new full-time police officers in the borough, some officials who are unhappy with the decision say there might not be enough money in next year's budget to pay for them.

Council voted 4-3 earlier this month to authorize manager Mary Benko to advertise for police officer applicants.

Robert Wayman, Phylis Theim, Joanna Jordan and Peggie Watson voted in favor. John Cassandro, Deborah Kelly and Gail Macioce were opposed.

At the same meeting, police Chief Roger Pivirotto — who has urged council to move toward a force made up primarily of full-time officers — announced that one of his part-time officers was leaving for a full-time job in Trafford.

Pivirotto has suggested hiring retired officers for part-time positions because they are less likely to leave when there are full-time openings at other departments.

In addition to the chief, the borough has two full-time and six part-time officers.

Macioce did not dismiss the idea of advertising for full-time police candidates but said she prefers that it be done after the money has been earmarked.

“I'm not saying it's not a good idea,” she said. “But there are a lot of things that are good ideas that we can't afford.”

The councilwoman said a “rough” estimate of the cost to hire a full-time officer is about $66,000 a year, which includes salary, health insurance, uniform allowance and the borough's portion of contributions to Social Security and unemployment insurance.

“I just want to be on the record that I am not against this,” she said. “But this is a big number, and we have a responsibility to our constituents to make sure that five years down the road this isn't something we regret.”

Wayman responded to Macioce's numbers by saying that hiring a full-time officer would enable the borough to eliminate two part-time positions, which cost about $48,000.

“So it would be $48,000 off the $66,000,” Wayman said.

However, Macioce said, the department might not be able to schedule police coverage if the part-time roster is trimmed.

Cassandro said he doesn't currently support the measures because he's worried borough officials might be asking applicants to waste their time applying for jobs that might not be available.

“If we look at the numbers and decide we can't afford it, then we've put a lot of people through a lot of trouble for nothing,” he said.

Tony LaRussa is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2360, or at tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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