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Saltsburg supports proposed study of regional police force

| Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

Saltsburg Borough Council members packed a few major items into a short monthly meeting Monday as they filled a vacant seat on their panel and supported a proposed feasibility study for a regional police force.

Saltsburg Police Chief Gary Walker said he'd been approached about looking into possibile development of a regional police department. So he contacted the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), which acts as an outreach agency for the governor's office, conducting studies and surveys to determine the feasibility of regional police enforcement.

Walker said a number of factors are taken into account in such studies, among them the finances and manpower that would be needed to operate a regional force.

Before joining the Saltsburg force, Walker gained experience with the Mifflin County Regional Police Department in Lewistown. He said a person who helped form that force advised him to contact DCED officials, who told him to first determine what local municipalities might be interested in a regional arrangement.

In addition to Saltsburg, Walker said he sent letters Monday to four neighboring communities — Conemaugh Township in Indiana County, and Bell and Loyalhanna townships and Avonmore Borough in Westmoreland County — and asked them to respond by the end of February.

All entities that would be involved in the study must sign a letter of intent, which authorizes the DCED to conduct the study.

“They can't do anything until the member municipalities would sign the letter of intent,” Walker said. “That's the very first step.”

Details of costs versus savings for participating municipalities wouldn't be available until the study is conducted, but according to Walker, “Coming from a department that went to a regional department, the cost savings were astronomical. If you cut down on every department in every municipality buying liability insurance, only buying one policy for a department, that in itself is astronomical in savings.”

Some of the discrepancies that did crop up in the regional department transition, such as contract issues and scheduling hours, were worked out within two years' time, he said..

Should the study be approved, the DCED would look closely at road miles, population figures, median incomes and median housing costs for municipalities interested in a regional department. The study would also look at the costs of existing departments, and for those without a current police force, how much they lose on citations that have to be filed on their behalf by the state police.

Saltsburg Council agreed to sign the letter of intent to join the proposed regional police study.

In other business Monday night, James Simpson was appointed to fill a council position left vacant by the resignation of Michelle Jesko last month. Simpsong, who submitted the sole letter of interest for the post, will be sworn in at the March meeting.

Two part-time police officers were hired Monday, each at $10 an hour. Jared Keple and Jason Kerr are both from Apollo and will help cover some additional police hours that were approved by council last year.

Art Stramaski submitted his resignation as the borough meter reader. Council accepted his resignation with regret and hired veteran and borough resident David Teres to take on the position at $8.25 per hour.

Council also briefly discussed the borough's planned purchase of the mobile home court at High Street and Pine Court Way. Current owners Raymond and Ed Bell have signed an agreement to sell the property to the borough, citing a price of $47,000.

Borough Solicitor Wayne Kablack is currently working to determine any outstanding bills on the property, which would be deducted from the price. Once that agreement is reached, council will sign the paperwork to transfer ownership of the property.

Council has said the site could be a possible location for a community playground or a maintenance building.

In other business, borough council: 

• Announced the Indiana County Recycling Center will offer a drop-off collection of recyclable materials across from the Fuel Land service station on the following dates — March 16, May 18, July 20, Sept. 21 and Nov. 16. Call the center at 724-479-0444 for additional details;

• Approved a building permit for 235 Washington St., to replace the existing furnace and A/C unit.

Gina DelFavero is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-459-6100, ext. 2915 or gdelfavero@tribweb.com.

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