The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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October 18, 2013

City to study police dept. funding

FARRELL — Farrell’s facing a few million-dollar questions as the city strives for solvency and eventual exit from Act 47, the state program for distressed communities.

Among them are where it can find $1 million for demolition of condemned property in the city, a move that would make a big dent in the blight that plagues the city.

Where that cash can come from is being bandied about by city officials at the same time it tries to trim costs for public safety.

The city spends about $1 million for police protection each year, which is roughly one-third of its annual budget.

City Manager Michael Ceci has urged all departments to rein in spending in areas the city controls. One thing out of direct city control is the cost it spends on police protection.

Farrell is a founding member of Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Department, which also serves Shenango Township, Wheatland and West Middlesex.

The bill Southwest sends Farrell goes up each year, Ceci noted -- to the tune of $30,000 to $40,000 -- and in putting together a revised recovery plan for the city, Ceci and state-appointed Act 47 advisers decided taking a look at the department's operations would be worthwhile to attempt to decrease those costs.

“My thought was, ‘Is there a way I can figure out to save money?’ ” Ceci said.

In essence he wants to know if the city’s “getting the best value for its dollars,” he said.

Toward that end, the city will be forking over $42,386 to the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) for a comprehensive study of the police department.

“I had to look at it,” Ceci said. “When I’m looking at dollars and cents, I have to look at the police department like any other service I buy.”

The city’s been able to reduce the cost of other services by shopping around, Ceci said, and while “I can’t necessarily shop” for police protection, the study will help determine if there’s any ways the department can spend less, although there’s no guarantee.

“This study could come out and say, ‘Farrell’s not paying enough,’ ” Ceci said. “It could come out saying the funding formula should be readjusted. It could come out and be a political land mine.”

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