By Meagen Finnerty
Herald Staff Writer
Residents filled Farrell City Council chambers Monday night to voice their concerns about the state of the Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Department.
Last week, Shenango Township supervisors voted to advertise for a police chief and acknowledged they are looking to form their own department.
Last month, Councilman Eugene Pacsi told the police commissioners that Farrell would leave the department if the city’s costs didn’t go down by $100,000.
Since then, officials including Mayor Olive McKeithan, Councilman Robert Burich and City Manager Michael Ceci have all said no one in the city is looking to leave the department.
The situation is “really getting out of control,” said resident Vernon Scott.
Scott asked council for an official statement of its position so the residents know what’s going on.
“The mayor and I have stated that as of right now, we have no intention of pulling out,” said Burich, who has a seat on the police commission.
Police Chief Riley Smoot Jr. took his turn at the podium to tell council members that he will help them as best he can, but it’s not likely to include cuts to the city’s costs.
“You’re also going to have to figure out ways to meet us,” Smoot said.
The police department waits to get Farrell’s budget before setting one of its own in order to stay in line with what Farrell can afford.
“I will work day and night to help you,” Smoot said.
Farrell Area School District Superintendent Lora Adams-King addressed how the situation could affect the schools.
“I’ve got students and staff that need to be protected,” she said.
Adams-King said the district has a grant in place to have a police presence at the schools. There could be consequences if they are unable to provide that service, she said, referring to the district possibly defaulting on the grant.
“Where does that leave us?” she asked.
Phyllis Townsend, a retired clerk for Southwest, reinforced the overall sentiment of how important the department is to the community.
“All that we’ve been through, we’ve been through together,” she said.
Townsend emphasized that it’s more beneficial to remain united.