Two Mainline communities are ironing out details of an agreement which would result in local police protection for the first time in three decades for one and provide expanded service for the other.
The talks, started more than a year ago between Portage Borough and Portage Township, are in the final phase as officials from each municipality review a draft agreement that could be in place by summer.
Township officials likely will agree in April to advertise the ordinance to purchase the protection and approve the measure in May, supervisor Chairman Kenneth Trimbath said Wednesday.
“Then it could start in June,” Trimbath said.
While Supervisor James Kovach has expressed opposition to the purchase of police services, Trimbath and Supervisor Elwood Selapack support the measure.
“I’m responding to the silent majority, the bulk of the residents want it and need it,” Trimbath said.
The protection is in response to requests from the community, not just the residents, but businesses and emergency services, he said.
“The ambulance service needs a secure site when they have a domestic dispute and it’s something the fire company wants,” he said.
Meanwhile, a number of township residents oppose the proposal.
Some are concerned that the current price tag of $89,000 for each year of a three-year pact, is too high and that state police provide adequate coverage.
“The bottom line is, can we afford it?” said township resident and local businessman Larry Raptosh. “Maybe we don’t need everything they (the borough) is proposing, maybe we just need police response.”
Longtime township watchdog John Kissell thinks the price tag is too high and the length of the pact is too long.
“That’s $270,000 over the three years of the agreement. Why not try it for six months and see what happens?” he said.
A six-month trial is not an option for Portage, said Borough Manager Bob Koban, who said the borough needed a longer commitment in order to hire officers and purchase equipment.
“The structure of our department changes drastically. We’re not taking our existing department and selling a service,” Koban said. “They’re buying a whole police department. This can’t be done at an additional cost to borough residents.”
The current two full-time officers, including Chief Ed Miller, would have to be augmented by an additional full-timer, and the roster of four part-time officers would have to be expanded, officials said.
Meanwhile, the increased staff would allow the borough to expand its hours of police coverage from 20 hours seven days a week to 24/7, Koban said.
The agreement would include response by borough officers to the township, as well as police patrols.