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Sergeant's retirement leaves police chief lone full-time member of Homer City force

| Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

Manpower is declining again for the Homer City Borough Police Department, at least temporarily.

After spending more than 30 minutes in an executive session, the borough council voted 6-0 Tuesday to accept the retirement of Sgt. David Kanouff from the department, retroactive to Jan. 30. Chris Worcester was absent.

Kanouff's retirement pension will be calculated based on an average salary of $34,153.73 over his last three years of active employment, subject to union approval. Kanouff had been on medical leave since January 2012.

The council last month accepted the resignation of part-time officer Francis Plummer, retroactive to Dec. 18.

Kanouff's retirement and Plummer's resignation leave Chief Louis Sacco as the department's lone full-time employee, with six part-time officers comprising the remainder of the force. Council authorized mayor Kenneth “Cal” Cecconi to begin interviewing applicants for an additional part-time officer position.

Sacco said his department had a slow month, but has been getting complaints about snow- and ice-covered sidewalks. He reminded residents to clear their sidewalks, saying “it is an ordinance, it's also a liability issue.”

Sacco also announced he had been appointed by the Indiana County Commissioners to the Inter-County Regional Radio System council as the county's law enforcement representative. Armstrong, Fayette and Westmoreland counties joined Indiana in forming the group.

The council also learned of plans to bring an alcohol distillery to Main Street.

Robert Sechrist said he and business partner Robert Begg intend to open Disobedient Spirits LLC at 30 S. Main Street.

Sechrist and Begg, both professors at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, hope to have the distillery fully licensed and operating by the Fourth of July, according to the distillery's website.

“It's our intention to make vodka, rum and whiskey to start,” Sechrist said. “By state law we will be able to have, with your approval, a retail outlet so we can have tourists come in and taste and then purchase the products.”

Sechrist said the business needs to have a physical property prior to applying for required state licenses, and he and Begg expect to close on the Main Street location by Feb. 15.

The blue brick building sits adjacent to Homer City United Methodist Church, prompting Sechrist to inquire about the borough's zoning restrictions for areas near religious facilities.

“We went through all of our zoning and all of our rules that we have and everything in (the business plan) would be OK,” borough manager Rob Nymick said. “We don't have anything against you guys opening this in our zoning.”

Sechrist said state laws would benefit the distillery's retail outlet by allowing the business to remain open until 11 p.m. nightly – well after state stores have closed.

“That's going to be particularly beneficial to us on Sundays when the regular state stores, the one in Indiana and the one in Blairsville, close at 5 p.m. Anyone who's looking to acquire a bottle of alcohol for 30 miles in either direction, we'd be the only legal opportunity,” Sechrist said.

Sechrist sought approval from the borough regarding the proposed use of the property to include in applications for state licenses.

“We're not in the habit of granting approval to businesses to open,” said borough solicitor Michael Supinka. “That's not a function of the borough. What the borough can issue you is a letter saying that your intended use does not violate their zoning. That's as far as they can go.”

Council also approved Thomas Citeroni's request to be appointed to the Homer-Center Parks and Recreation board to fill the position vacated by Cecconi at last month's meeting.

Borough secretary Karen Valyo reminded the council of primary elections in May, noting that council members Joe Iezzi, Jennifer Jaworski and Worcester will need to run for re-election if they wish to remain on the council, as their terms expire this year. The positions of mayor and tax collector are also up for re-election this year and council members Beatrice Harris and Elizabeth Brown have two years remaining on their terms, Valyo said.

Nymick said the community's next town hall meeting will be held Feb. 27 at the fire hall. Elected officials will meet at 4:30 p.m. with the public portion of the gathering set for 6 p.m.

Greg Reinbold is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2913 or greinbold@tribweb.com.

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