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Brownsville's calls back its Ace

| Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, 12:02 a.m.

Brownsville's police dog, Ace, is back on the beat.

During a contentious meeting on Friday, council narrowly voted to approve an agreement with Lone Wolf K-9 and reinstate the dog to service.

Ace was sworn in on Aug. 15 and was partnered and trained with Sgt. John Brant.

One month later, council idled the nearly 2-year-old German shepherd.

Some council members on Friday said they were unaware of an agreement included with the dog's service.

Others questioned the solicitation of donations to help support K-9-related costs.

Lone Wolf K-9, based in McClure, Ohio, donated Ace and Brant's training to the borough.

Ace's primary function is narcotics detection, detention and tracking.

“This dog is necessary. There are drugs. It's out of control. ... I voted last month to keep the dog and asked for an immediate meeting to reinstate the dog because we need to do that,” Councilwoman Tracy Sheehan Zivkovich said.

Zivkovich made motions to approve the agreement with Lone Wolf and to reinstate the K-9. Both motions passed 4-1-2. Councilmen John Hosler and James Lawver voted no, and Tom Bush abstained.

Prior to voting, several borough residents addressed the board.

“I view Ace as another tool in the toolbox for you,” said Connie Gore.

She said Ace was a “more cost-effective way” of “keeping things in order.”

Tyrone Smith questioned whether future costs related to the program could result in borough employee cutbacks.

“If you are laying someone off in favor of the dog, I'm against it,” Smith said.

When council members brought up a motion at September's meeting to eliminate the position of borough manager, President Jack Lawver said the meeting's sole purpose was the K-9 issue.

The borough's longtime manager is Elizabeth Lawver, the mother of Lawver and Councilman James Lawver.

That motion failed, Jack Lawver said on Friday, and was followed by one that passed, eliminating the K-9 program.

Lawver said on Friday that his reason for voting against the program in September was that council had previously been unaware of an agreement associated with the dog.

He said it stipulates that, should Brant no longer act as Ace's handler, the dog would be returned to Ohio or undergo training with another officer.

“Say Sgt. Brant quit. The contract says the donated K-9 will be returned. There will be a cost of $10,500 if we don't return the dog,” James Lawver said.

Jack Lawver said that it would make no sense not to return the dog in that instance, or to request he be paired and trained with another officer.

Bush asked if the dog would be restrained while at the station.

“I'm not against the dog. I just found out about the (agreement) the other day. Can you guarantee me the dog won't bite anybody?” Bush said.

Lawver said that, following a legal opinion from borough solicitor Melinda Dellarose, the borough kept its liability insurance on the dog while his status was in limbo.

“You signed an agreement and I believe it was illegal,” Hosler said to Councilman Ross Swords.

Swords, who is the public safety committee chairman, pursued grants and donations to obtain the dog. The agreement was mailed to him, he said.

A first-year councilman, Swords called his signing it a “rookie mistake.”

“If the board does not give approval, (the agreement) is invalid,” Jack Lawver said.

Hosler questioned donations made through the Brownsville Neighborhood Crime Watch for the program's expenses.

Swords, neighborhood watch vice president, said funds raised went to purchase dog beds, grooming tools and a joint supplement for Ace, along with patrol car decals and window tinting.

“Some council members do not come to (neighborhood watch) meetings. It's all documented,” he said.

Mary Pickels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-5401 or mpickels@tribweb.com.

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