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North Apollo police service switch under study

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Monday, Jan. 30, 2012

The nearly five-year police relationship between North Apollo and Kiski Township may be coming to an end.

It's because, in part, a union between Apollo and North Apollo would be a "better marriage," Apollo Council President David Heffernan said.

North Apollo is considering the proposal from its fellow borough, and Kiski Township may be willing to let it go.

North Apollo disbanded its police force and began contracting with Kiski Township for police services in April 2007 at an initial annual cost of $35,000.

The agreement requires Kiski Township to provide to North Apollo police services that are "consistent" with those it provides its own residents.

The agreement was extended in 2008 to run for five years, through March 31, 2013. An automatic, annual 6 percent increase in cost was included.

North Apollo is now paying Kiski Township about $44,200.

Either North Apollo or Kiski can end the agreement with 30 days notice.

A North Apollo committee consisting of one council member and two residents was appointed to talk with Apollo officials. It's expected to report back to North Apollo Council at its Feb. 6 meeting, Councilman Bill Campbell said.

Apollo started the talks with North Apollo. But Campbell agrees that the two boroughs are better matched.

Campbell said North Apollo has had "numerous complaints" from residents about the police service they're getting from Kiski Township.

"The citizens don't feel they're getting their money's worth for what we're paying. I tend to agree with them," Campbell said. "I see them twice a day. Whether they're in town more than that I don't really know. I'm around town and I see them twice a day in the morning and the evening; that's it.

"If we can get better coverage for the same money we'd be foolish not to."

But Kiski Township Supervisors Chairman Jack Wilmot, North Apollo's former police chief, said he hears most people in North Apollo are satisfied with the police service that Kiski Township provides.

"I don't hear anything bad about it," Wilmot said. "It's only one or two people pushing the issue."

Wilmot said rising costs forced Kiski to make cuts in its police department, which were done instead of asking for more money from North Apollo. Despite those cuts, North Apollo is still getting service, he said.

Costs such as those for insurance and gasoline went up by more than the annual increase built into the agreement, Wilmot said.

If North Apollo wants to go with Apollo, Wilmot said Kiski Township wouldn't try to stop them.

"If they want to get out at any time, they can," he said. "It wouldn't be a problem."

Campbell said North Apollo's decision to partner with Apollo for police protection will not be affected by a controversy in Apollo over whether Apollo police Chief Paul Breznican can serve as an Apollo council member. Breznican was elected as a write-in candidate in November.

An Armstrong County judge found the two positions incompatible in Apollo. Breznican is appealing the decision, and his council seat remains vacant.

Campbell called it "small town politics" that will get figured out eventually.

He said he's more interested in what police coverage Apollo could provide and at what cost.

Heffernan said a partnership would allow Apollo to hire a new full-time officer and a couple of more part-time officers.

"It would benefit them and it would benefit us," Campbell said. "They'll have additional coverage as we will, too.

"If it's going to work out, that's what we're going to do. If it isn't, we'll stay with Kiski," he said.

Apollo Council decided on Thursday to take the idea a step further.

It voted to apply to the state for a grant that would pay for a study of consolidating the two boroughs' police services.

The application would be contingent on North Apollo agreeing.

Coming up

Who: North Apollo Council

What: Committee report on police services with Apollo

When: 7 p.m. Feb. 6

Where: Borough building, 15th Street at Leonard Avenue

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