The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

May 21, 2014

Farrell threatens to pull out of SW police force

SOUTHWEST MERCER COUNTY — Tempers were high at the Southwest Mercer County Police Commission meeting Tuesday after Farrell threatened to leave the department.

Farrell Councilman Eugene Pacsi presented the commissioners with an ultimatum: Either reduce Farrell’s police costs by $100,000 for 2015 or the city will create its own police department.

“Restructure this or else,” Pacsi threatened.

He explained that Farrell is contributing money that should be coming from a different community, namely accusing Shenango Township.

“It’s just fact that the city of Farrell cannot keep being $100,000 above and beyond,” Pacsi said.

However, Shenango Township Supervisor Carol Budanka argued that Shenango has been fulfilling its obligation to the department.

Budanka and Pacsi struggled to get their points across to each other, resulting in raised voices and accusations about the standing of Shenango’s original agreement with Southwest.

“That was the carrot to bring you in,” Pacsi said.

Chief Riley Smoot Jr. defended the contract, saying that the “only carrot” was a $5,000 savings for Shenango.

Pacsi said he believes that a formula needs to be applied to decide how much financial backing for the police force each community should supply. The formula he proposes includes factoring in the population, the number of calls and the number of road miles.

That was the formula used by Farrell City Manager Michael Ceci to determine the city’s potential savings should council create an independent force, Pacsi said.

“That’s not what we signed up for,” Budanka said, insisting that Shenango isn’t going to take on the additional $100,000 for Farrell.

While Smoot agreed that the numbers could be re-evaluated, he strongly disagreed with the timeline Pacsi presented.

Pacsi said Farrell needs a decision in time for council’s next meeting in June. If there’s no decision by then, Farrell will leave the department, Pacsi said.

“It is not going to happen,” Smoot said flatly. “You can threaten that all you want.”

That sort of decision would take months. He also pointed out that the June deadline wouldn’t even allow time for the other communities to meet and discuss it, making it an impossible request.

“To come in and think you’re going to get it now because you want it now, that’s asinine,” Smoot told Pacsi.

Even if there were a way to reallocate the financial responsibilities, it wouldn’t happen in one big move, according to commission Chairman Thomas Tulip.

“You’re not going to hold us hostage,” he said, making it clear that the commissioners wouldn’t be bullied or rushed into a decision.  

Tulip explained that one huge increase is not only impossible to expect other counties to adjust to, but also noted there’s just not an increasing tax base to bring in more revenue.

Pacsi still insisted on a quick turnaround, citing the last few years of lost potential savings for Farrell and the unfairness of the situation.

Tulip and Smoot insisted that the past can be reviewed, but can’t be changed. Whatever decisions are made need to be centered on the future of the force.

“I wish I could sit here and give you a magic answer,” Smoot said. “It doesn’t exist the way you want it.”

There were also concerns shouted among the commission that the numbers used for Pacsi’s argument aren’t correct and there won’t be much – if any – savings.

“If we’re going to play, let’s play,” Smoot said, addressing the arguing. “Even (Ceci’s) numbers from (Monday) had to be adjusted.”

There’s more to this debate than money, though. Retired detective Sgt. Ron Preston made sure to point that out from the audience.

“This constant fighting over money, you’re destroying your people,” Preston said.

The police are fed up with the annual worry about getting laid off, he said. “They’re afraid to buy a Christmas gift because they’re afraid they won’t have a job on January first.”

Preston said this issue has arisen every year for the last decade from Farrell.

“You can only ask other communities to do so much,” he said.

People have had enough, Preston said, and he thinks the constant fear would end with Farrell’s departure.

“That three-community police department would be very successful,” he said. In addition to Farrell and Shenango, the department covers West Middlesex and Wheatland.

The next step involves the different areas deciding what would be a reasonable formula and a fair timeline, and Farrell officials need to consider compromise, Smoot said.

The benefits of shared costs and united protection remain.

“We give you more than adequate protection,” Smoot said. “You need to seriously consider what’s most important to you.”

If Farrell isn’t satisfied with the options – or lack of them – council will be submitting its 60-day notice in June or July, Pacsi said.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • CIRT team in Jackson Center Man arrested after shooting standoff

    One Jackson Center man is recovering from a bullet wound, and the borough resident accused of shooting him sits in jail after a long night of drinking that state police say turned into a case of attempted homicide.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sharon Speedway location City on track for new Speedway store

    Speedway is lining up its administrative and bureaucratic cones on plans for the gas station and convenience store chain to zoom into downtown Sharon.

    July 31, 2014 1 Photo

  • Guards, county OK deal

    County officials and guards at the Mercer County Jail have reached a tentative contract agreement that, if approved, halts the idea of privatizing operations at the facility.

    July 31, 2014

  • Doss: Public has right to know

    A major part of Farrell council’s work session Monday was spent deciding whether or not to inform the audience about an unofficial police proposal from the City of Sharon.

    July 30, 2014

  • Budget falling short despite tax hike

    Farrell residents may have seen an income tax increase this year, but the city isn’t seeing the extra dollars City Manager Michael Ceci budgeted for.

    July 30, 2014

  • oakwood graves 1 Resting together

    Visitors to Oakwood Cemetery would see many  familiar local names if they looked down the hillside to the left just inside the gate on Sharon’s North Oakland Avenue.

    July 30, 2014 3 Photos

  • Police: Kids in car were OK

    The mother of two young children was drunk and passed out when police found them all in a car parked along a city street, Sharon police said.

    July 29, 2014

  • To talk – or not – about police

    The mysterious agenda item, “No. 10,” at Farrell’s council meeting Monday became the center of a heated workshop and business session.

    July 29, 2014

  • Community thanks its first-responders

    Sharpsville honored its emergency responders Sunday at an event that included Mertz Towers residents as special guests.

    July 28, 2014

  • Drilling boom challenges state inspectors

    The state’s 83 well inspectors face a daunting enough challenge keeping tabs on 120,000 active oil and gas wells that have been drilled over the last century.

    July 28, 2014

  • Kidds Mill Covered Bridge A span of time

    Four generations of the Cadman family have enjoyed the Kidds Mill Covered Bridge, which is in Pymatuning Township near where the family’s ancestral farm is located.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • Intruder hurts woman, takes $5

    A home invasion in Hermitage Friday night sent an elderly woman to the hospital and netted the robber $5.

    July 27, 2014

  • national night out March against crime set for Aug. 5

    At the last Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Commission meeting, Chief Riley Smoot Jr. presented the number of incidents for each of the four communities in May.

    Farrell topped out at 819.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • high street trail Peaceful pathways

    History buffs and picnickers in the Shenango Valley won’t have to drive to Sharpsville to hang out at the old Erie Canal extension lock. They’ll soon have the option to walk or roll in on bicycles and even powered chairs to visit Canal Park near the outflow of Shenango Dam.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • balloonquest1 Balloon Quest celebrates 25 years

    Today is the final day of the 25th annual Western Pennsylvania Balloon Quest at Scotland Meadows Park.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo