As it prepares to begin covering Quemahoning Township and Stoystown, Conemaugh Township Police Department already is looking to reach out farther.

“It makes it better for everybody,” Conemaugh Chief Howard Jackson said. “The goal is to provide better services for the community,”

Jackson said he would like to see a regional police force covering most of northern Somerset County. With two townships and two boroughs in his coverage area, Jackson believes he is well on the way. Conemaugh already was under contract with Benson Borough when Quemahoning and Stoystown signed up.

Last week, Paint Township supervisors voted to enter negotiations with Conemaugh after longtime Chief Wilbert Bailey Jr. retired amid turmoil.

“These are preliminary talks,” Paint Supervisor Jeffrey Eash said. “We stressed we want to make sure we kept our officers on board.”

That’s fine with Jackson, who said he welcomes the experienced officers and plans to continue serving Paint as a distinct district within the Conemaugh department’s coverage area. Plans are in the works to set up substations in Stoystown and Quemahoning.

“We’d bring them right in,” Jackson said. “I’d like to get the officers familiar with all the areas.”

Paint’s three full-time officers would bring Conemaugh’s full-time staff to ten, he said. Conemaugh also could pick up Central City Borough, which is patrolled under contract with Paint.

Windber Borough was disappointed to hear of Paint’s plans to work with Conemaugh, said Raymond DiBattista, council president.

“We’ve been working pretty closely with Paint,” DiBattista said, citing recent council action that gives Paint Township officers the full authority of Windber officers when called to assist the borough.

But a previous attempt to consolidate Windber and Paint departments fell apart because of pension issues. The two have contracts with different unions, and different pension laws govern boroughs and townships. Conemaugh and Paint officers are members of the Fraternal Order of Police chapters, so the two townships should have fewer hurdles bringing the forces together, Jackson said.

Paint’s primary vehicle and other equipment would be turned over Conemaugh under a lease agreement to be negotiated, Eash said.

Conemaugh will gain the services of Paint’s K-9 unit, Dax and his handler, Officer Edward Porada Jr.; and a Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer, Pete Walls. Paint will gain Conemaugh’s motorcycle unit and a full-time investigator.

“There will be less money out of pocket and more services provided for the people,” Conemaugh Supervisor David Hart said.

Jackson’s vision reaches beyond Paint and Quemahoning.

“I have spoken to a lot of different municipalities,” Jackson said. “I spoke to the supervisors at Shade and Jenner townships, just to present the idea.”

Conemaugh Township is providing police coverage for other areas under shared services contracts, but expanding the area may require restructuring the management. A police commission such as West Hills Regional Police could be a long-term answer for the northern Somerset County area, Jackson said.

“We are starting out small, and hopefully, down the road, it will be regional,” Jackson said. “It could be years.”

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