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Blairsville council hires police chief

| Sunday, March 31, 2013, 3:45 p.m.
Bruce Siskawicz | The Dispatch
Blairsville's new police chief, Michael Allman

Blairsville Borough once more has a chief of police.

Acting at a special Monday meeting, borough council hire Michael Allman of Wellsburg, W.Va., to take on leadership of Blairsville's police department.

According to Council President John Bertolino, Allman, who has worked in the criminal justice field for more than 37 years, was the best candidate for the job.

“Based on the qualifications that we established, and then just going through the interview process, he impressed everyone,” Bertolino said.

The borough has been without a police chief for over two years. During that time, Jill Gaston served as officer-in-charge of the police department, which currently has two full-time officers and six part-timers.

The search for a new chief began July 15, 2012, according to Bertolino, and the borough received 27 applications. Four of those applicants were brought in for interviews, and Bertolino said the decision was made on several qualifications, including having a bachelor's degree, five years of police command experience and the ability to fit within the borough's budget and salary range.

Allman will receive a $55,000 salary plus two weeks of vacation, 11 sick days, nine holidays, life insurance, and a hospitalization plan with spousal benefits to which he will contribute.

Bertolino noted that the borough is still negotiating its contract with the police union.

Allman holds a bachelor of science degree from West Liberty State University and is a graduate of the West Virginia State Police Academy. He started his career as a police officer in the college town of Bethany, W.Va.

Allman was the police chief when he left there two years later, taking a position as a deputy in the Brooke County sheriff's department in Wellsburg. He was promoted from corporal to sergeant to jail administrator and finally to chief deputy, after which he was elected to two terms as Brooke County sheriff.

A few of his accomplishments while serving as sheriff include designing and implementing Brooke County's first 911 system and starting R.U.O.K., a computerized system based on 911 that administers daily checks on senior citizens who are alone, handicapped or disabled. He was also appointed by the governor to West Virginia's Policy and Violent Control Board and developed several safety programs that were used at local schools.

He received his judicial education from the National Judicial College in Reno, Nev., and for the last 15 years has served as a magistrate for Brooke County.

Allman said he was drawn to the position in Blairsville because he fels the town has much in common with Wellsburg.

“The similarities of the two areas are almost identical,” he said, including the fact that they both lie along a river. “They seem to have some of the same problems, and I just thought I'd like to be involved in helping the borough, working with the officers and the council to maintain a professional police department for the citizens of the borough.”

One of the problems facing the community is the rising drug use rate and the crimes that are often related to it.

“It's not uncommon in any community, but drugs is definitely a huge issue,” said Bertolino.

Allman indicated he has an extensive background with drug-related police issues and said he hopes to get involved with Indiana County's drug task force. He noted he founded the Brooke-Hancock-Weirton drug task force in his community.

He is also a firm believer in pursuing the battle against drugs in schools, promoting abstinence from drugs among students at a young age.

A certified D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) instructor, he started a D.A.R.E. program in three Brooke County middle schools, reaching out to hundreds of fifth-grade students.

“I have a very big community-oriented policy,” Allman said.

He and his wife, Carol “C.J.” Allman, are currently looking at homes in the borough in order to make the move from West Virginia to Blairsville.

“I want to move right into the borough,” Michael Allman said. “I just believe the chief needs to be in the borough and I want to live in the borough.

“I'm just anxious to get started, work with the present officers here and to address any problems in the borough.”

At Monday night's meeting, after a 10-minute executive session to discuss legal and personnel matters, council reconvened and voted unanimously to hire Allman. Mary Ugoletti was absent.

Allman was then sworn in as police chief.

Before council made its decision, Kim Shankle, a Morrow Street resident, made the only public comment at the meeting, expressing her support of Gaston as the best candidate for the chief position.

Shankle said she has lived in the borough almost all of her life. “Until now, under the current direction of (officer in charge) Jill Gaston, I have not felt this safe and attached to the police department,” Shankle said.

She credits Gaston with fostering a police department that is involved with the citizens and one that takes steps to show children that police are helpful, approachable and not to be feared.

“I feel it would be a detriment to our community to bring in an outsider, who we know nothing about,” Kunkle said. She encouraged the council to allow the community to meet police chief candidates and get to know their backgrounds and their stances on problems that face Blairsville Borough.

She told the board that she felt Gaston should be the top candidate for police chief, “as she has done an exemplary job filling in for the past few years. As the saying goes, if it isn't broke, don't fix it.”

When asked after the meeting whether or not Gaston was one of the potential candidates, Bertolino remarked, “We selected the (interviewed) applicants based on the qualifications that were established,” and those who did not meet those qualifications were not considered for the position.

Gina DelFavero is a staff writer for Trib total Media. She can be reached at 724-459-6100 ext. 2915 or

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