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Park police may patrol at WCCC

| Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Westmoreland County Commissioners took a step on Thursday toward possibly having county park police supply security on the Westmoreland County Community College campus.

In a unanimous vote, the commission amended an ordinance to allow park police access to the college grounds near Youngwood.

Now the commissioners and college officials will have to hammer out an agreement for costs and other arrangements.

“All we did was say let's start a discussion about it,” Charles Anderson, commission chairman, said of the vote. “I have a lot of questions. We have to hire people, there are vehicles involved. ... It's just a proposal at this point.”

Commissioner Tyler Courtney said he likes the idea of park police staffing the campus, but costs will play a big role in the final decision.

“Our park police are well-trained, properly certified, and it seems like the perfect marriage,” Commissioner Ted Kopas said, noting the county's ties to the campus, including financial.

“We need to sit down to do the numbers,” he added. “My goal is make this (the costs) a wash.”

Last month, the college's board of trustees gave staff approval to explore the notion of using park police.

One proposal is calling for the officers to monitor the campus from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday. Part-time officers further would staff the campus on Saturdays and for special events. The hours could be expanded over time, according to the proposal.

Officers with the college's current security firm are not armed.

President Daniel Obara said last month the campus is safe, but “in today's environment, we believe we need to upgrade the level of security.”

College spokeswoman Anna Marie Palatella didn't return a call on Thursday seeking comment.

Park police Chief Nick Caesar anticipated Thursday that a minimum eight officers would be needed to supply protection to the college.

“It looks like we'll have to have at least five full-time and three part-time officers,” he said.

Those officers either may come from the current ranks or be new hires, Caesar said.

To save costs, park police will look to use equipment the college may have, such as vehicles, he said.

“We're going to do everything we can to keep the costs down,” Caesar added.

He applauded college officials for considering the idea of using park police.

“I give them a lot of credit for taking this step. They're very proactive. They want to have a safe campus,” he said.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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