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West Newton Council approves hunt for more cops

| Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 9:03 p.m.

West Newton Council will advertise to hire potential part-time police officers in order to boost the size of the force.

Mayor Mary Popovich brought the issue to council's attention after a discussion with West Newton police Chief Gary Indof at an earlier work session.

Council passed the measure for the search 5-1 with Councilman Adam Paterline voting against. Councilman Tony Berarducci was absent.

West Newton currently employs two full-time and six part-time officers.

Paterline said he thought that the shifts that weren't covered could be seen as a cost savings.

Popovich reported that 23 shifts weren't covered in December forcing the borough to rely on state police for any emergencies.

“It waxes and wanes like it always has over the years,” she said, adding that residents expect 24/7 coverage from their hometown department.

Council President George Molovich also had reservations about hiring any new employees, since the scheduling problems have been an issue with the small department for years.

“I just don't see how hiring a new guy (will help), we have to train them and then they leave,” he said.

Council stipulated that previous experience will be required for any newly hired officers.

In other business, council is considering overhauling its policies regarding hours recorded with a time clock.

Some of the employees, who include the police officers and four borough employees, forget to punch out causing confusion with scheduling and accountability.

Councilman Chris Luikart suggested purchasing a new time clock that would take palm scans.

“I'm just trying to find something that's easy where we don't have to keep track of badges,” he said.

But other council members believed a stricter policy was necessary, rather than the $1,000 machine.

“If someone can't do the basic requirements of their job, there should be some consequences,” Paterline said.

The measure was tabled for discussion at a later work session.

“We've got to get that policy straightened out,” Molovich said.

Council also approved a quote from Frank Szczerba Excavating of Belle Vernon to replace a crushed cement-encased pipe under property near the future site of Simeral Square.

The $7,500 project would include 20 feet of 42-inch pipe that would run from the Youghiogheny riverbank to a catch basin along Water Street.

Another quote was obtained from Cecil-based Dennis Fleeher Contracting, currently working on the future park, but that quote was $6,914 for only 8 feet of cement-encased pipe.

Luikart figured out that even if the lengths were the same, Szczerba's quote would have still been cheaper by about $100.

As permitted by borough code, projects under $10,200 do not require a formal bidding process.

Council also discussed Fleeher's company spreading dirt from the construction site down Water and Main streets.

“All they need is a shovel and a broom,” Molovich said, adding that they only expect the roads to be cleaned when the work day is over.

Streets Department Supervisor Randy Shincovich said the contractor had discussed the soil erosion plan in his contract, but Solictor Chuck Wade said the mud is “construction debris” not soil erosion and a formal letter can be sent to the contractor per the borough's ordinances to encourage workers to clean it up.

“I understand the project is for the good of the borough, but they've got to do the right thing,” Paterline agreed.

Council also approved “no parking” signs for Vine Street Park. Luikart said patrons using the West Newton gym were parking on the park's basketball court when it was cleared of snow.

“If they're only parking there two times per year for events, that's fine, but not every other day,” he said.

Indof is unable to warn or cite anyone parking on the courts without a sign or notice that no parking is allowed, Luikart said.

Two recreation board members were approved after a motion was amended to include background checks, required by a policy adopted last year.

Robert Warrick of Yukon and Martin Harris of South Huntingdon were recommended by the current recreation board members to fill vacancies.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at sfederoff@tribweb.com or 724-836-6660.

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