The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

July 18, 2014

No news on police force

70-plus residents attend meeting

SHENANGO TOWNSHIP — More than 70 residents gathered at the Shenango Township meeting to hear news on the future of the Southwest Regional Police Department.

No answer would be given Thursday night, though, Supervisor Chairman Tom Hubert said.

Shenango Township supervisors voted at their last meeting to begin advertising for a chief of police to head their own department.

“We’re up against the end of our income flow,” Hubert said.

The resulting backlash built up in anticipation for Thursday’s meeting. The Fraternal Order of Police began advertising and circulating a petition against Shenango Township pulling out of Southwest Regional.

The advertisement was brought up several times throughout the meeting. It compared the township’s draft budget for its own police department against similar departments in the area.

Hubert said the numbers were off, though, most notably including the $200,000 start-up costs in the first year’s budget. Supervisors would plan on a loan which they could pay over the course of the equipment’s life span.

While the majority of the audience was supportive of Southwest Regional, Hubert said that may not be reflective of the entire community.

“I’m not hearing the same thing in the community that I’m hearing in this room tonight,” he said.

The main question that supervisors answered several times throughout the night was whether a new department was a certainty for next year.

Supervisor Carol Budanka, who holds a seat on the police commission, insisted that the supervisors were preparing for any scenario, but nothing was decided on.

“We have to have a backup, and that’s what this is,” she said. “What if they (Farrell) pull out and we have nothing?”

Supervisor Dale Perry was the only supervisor to vote against advertising for a police chief at last month’s meeting.

However, he explained that the board isn’t going to let the residents suffer from poor protection, but must live within its means.

“If we do in fact form a police department, it would be as good as, if not better than, what you have now,” he said.

He then showed everyone the thick stack of applications they’ve received, 35 in total. Many of the applications are from current Southwest Regional police officers, he said.

Supervisors agreed to wait until the Aug. 18 police commission meeting before making any decisions. Chief Riley Smoot Jr. and Hubert both said the assessments for next year would be frozen, meaning no community would have an increase in police costs for 2015.

If an increase were necessary, Shenango Township would be forced to raise taxes, supervisors said. Township representatives are only able to raise taxes one mill before having to petition the courts annually for any raises.

A mill would bring in an additional $49,000 and cost each resident about $3 a month, Supervisor David Garrett explained.

Many residents reacted to the numbers, calling out that supervisors can raise their taxes.

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