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Regional police force to save taxpayers money

| Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, 8:31 p.m.

Seven Fields and Evans City have agreed to form a regional police department, potentially saving them hundreds of thousands of dollars combined.

Seven Fields council unanimously approved the agreement last week. Evans City unanimously voted the week before to approve it, pending review by its solicitor.

“It is a win-win for both communities. It is our intention to have other communities eventually come into the department,” said Jack Oakley, president of the Seven Fields Council.

Regional policing has gained favor with municipal leaders who are faced with stagnant or declining sources of revenue, according to the state Department of Economic and Community Development's Center for Local Government Services.

Eighty-three percent of municipal police departments have fewer than 10 officers, according to the center, which says regional police departments strengthen existing police services — especially in the areas of administration, supervision, training, investigation, patrol and specialty services.

The Evans City/Seven Fields Regional Police Department would station an officer in the Seven Fields borough building for 16 hours each day, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. The borough has a contract with Cranberry for police protection, but has no officers stationed in Seven Fields.

Under the agreement, Seven Fields will pay for 53 percent of the cost of the new police department. Evans City will pay 47 percent. The payments are based on the population of the two boroughs and will be reviewed every five years.

Seven Fields now pays Cranberry $347,000 for police service each year. It will pay $197,000 for police service through a consolidated system, according to Oakley.

“Our police service costs $642 per incident. We just can't do that anymore. I think people of the community will be served and served well by the new department,” Oakley said.

The consolidated department would save Evans City about $120,000 per year, officials said.

“It seems like this plan will be better for both communities,” said Evans City Mayor Dean Zinkhan.

Police respond to about 45 incidents in Seven Fields each month. Oakley said most are domestic disputes, but they also include traffic violations, false alarms and writing bad checks.

According to the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Reporting System, the most common crimes in Evans City are property offenses. There were 34 last year.

The borough also reported six drug violations, 13 alcohol offenses and one assault.

The department will begin work at the end of next year, when Seven Fields' contract with Cranberry ends. It will be made up of three full-time officers — a chief, a sergeant and a corporal — and nine to 12 part-time officers.

Evans City now has eight police officers, three of them full time: Chief Joseph McCombs, a sergeant and a corporal.

A police commission made up of three people from each community will oversee the department. Two of the three members will be either a council member or mayor. The third member can be either an elected official or a resident.

Members of the police commission will serve two-year terms.

Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at rwills@tribweb.com.

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