Burgettstown council extends contract for police protection

BURGETTSTOWN – The Burgettstown Borough Council has continued its contract with the Borough of McDonald for police protection until Dec. 31, 2017.

For the service, Burgettstown will pay McDonald $85,800 in 2013, 2014 and 2015 and $88,374 in 2016 and 2017. The fees will be paid quarterly in January, April, July and October. If Burgettstown should fail to make the quarterly payments, police services will cease within 15 days.

McDonald has provided police services in Burgettstown for the past two years, after Burgettstown dissolved its own police force after a series of civil lawsuits filed against the department made insurance costs unmanageable.

As part of the agreement, the McDonald Police will patrol Burgettstown for 60 hours each week. The police chief and Burgettstown mayor and council will confer on what hours the borough will be patrolled. The McDonald Police chief will determine how best to deploy officers to best protect both municipalities. During those 60 hours, McDonald officers will respond to both emergency and non-emergency calls, do business and meter checks, traffic enforcement, foot patrols, criminal investigations and ordinance enforcement.

McDonald Police will collect 40 percent of traffic and non-traffic enforcement and criminal prosecution fines. McDonald Police will collect 50 percent of non-traffic and criminal fines in cases in which the defendant is found guilty.

McDonald Police officers will make all court appearances necessary to follow-up on arrests made in Burgettstown. Burgettstown will pay $40 per hour for full-time officers and $20 per hour for part-time officers and mileage for court appearances outside the regularly scheduled patrol times. McDonald Police will keep and maintain records.

McDonald Police also will respond to all emergency calls on a full-time basis, 24-hours a day, seven days a week. All requests for emergency police services will be relayed through Washington County 9-1-1. The McDonald Police Chief or his authorized designee will determine whether a call is emergency or non-emergency, and non-emergency calls will be addressed on the next regularly scheduled shift.

Burgettstown will allow the McDonald Police to use its weight enforcement scales, and all fines generated from the use of the scales will be shared between Burgettstown, McDonald and any other jurisdiction in which McDonald has police jurisdiction and uses the scales. Burgettstown will make its police station, police equipment and furnishings, including computers, office furniture, holding cells, files and past records, available to McDonald Police. If McDonald uses the Burgettstown police station for an arrest made in another jurisdiction, 50 percent of the fine revenue will be paid to Burgettstown.

McDonald will obtain insurance to cover its police coverage in Burgettstown and provide the borough with a certificate of insurance. If a suit is filed against a McDonald Police officer as a result of police action taken in Burgettstown, then the borough will pay the insurance deductible and any wages associated with the McDonald police officers’ court time. McDonald’s 2013 deductible is $1,000.

The agreement can be discontinued with a 90-day notice. It can be extended for a year by written notice on or before Nov. 15, 2017.

The Smith Township Supervisors also offered a proposal to provide police service through the Smith Township Police Department until Dec. 31, 2015. The contract could have been terminated by either party with 90-days notice.

Council President Jim Reedy said the decision was a difficult one to make and the council appreciated the input offered by residents.

“The borough (council) felt the contract should go to McDonald,” he said. “We had a hard time making the decision. We appreciate Smith Township stepped forward and wanted to work with us. At this time, we are choosing to stay with McDonald. And, to those who have voiced concerns, we thank them for showing concern and being part of the process, because it helps keep things balanced. There’s always a lot of opinions and concerns involved with every decision, and, as a council, we understand this was an important decision.”

He added the council’s familiarity with McDonald and their satisfaction at the job the department had done over the previous two years had been weighed in making the decision.

“The biggest change is all the 9-1-1 calls will go to McDonald,” said Reedy. “We asked for that change because it was taking the (Pennsylvania) State Police so long to get here.”

Smith Township proposed an annual payment of $83,500 for 2013, $85,337 for 2014 and $87,214 for 2015. The fees would be paid quarterly in January, April, July and October. If Burgettstown failed to make a quarterly payment, Smith Township’s obligations would immediately cease.

Under that proposal, Smith Township officers would have all police powers, excluding zoning, building codes and animal control.

All emergency police calls would go through Washington County 9-1-1 to Smith Township Police, and officers would respond 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Non-emergency calls would be handled as promptly as possible.

Smith Township would receive 70 percent of all fines generated through traffic and non-traffic enforcement. Smith Township Police would collect 70 percent of non-traffic and criminal fines in cases in which the defendant is found guilty.

Smith Township Police officers would make all necessary court appearances in following up on police action taken in Burgettstown. Burgettstown will pay $35 per hour for full-time officers and $20 per hour for part-time officers for court appearances in excess of those provided for by the annual base fee.

The police department would keep and maintain all necessary records. The Smith Township Police chief would determine how best to deploy officers to best protect both municipalities.

The Smith Township Police would not use the Burgettstown Police Station, but maintain the current Smith Township station on Smith Township State Road in Slovan. Burgettstown would be asked to make its equipment available, including the breath-testing equipment and weight enforcement scales. Burgettstown would be responsible for maintaining all equipment owned by the borough. If the Smith Township department issues a fine for a weight violation while using Burgettstown’s equipment, Burgettstown will receive 30 percent of the fine. The Smith Township Police expressed an interest in possibly using the two patrol cars owned by Burgettstown under a separate agreement.

Smith Township would obtain insurance to cover police action in Burgettstown, including liability and workers’ compensation. A certificate of insurance would be provided to Burgettstown. If a suit were brought against a Smith Township officer for actions taken in Burgettstown, then Burgettstown would pay wages associated with court appearances made by Smith Township officers?

Smith Township Supervisor Tom Schilinski said he understood the Burgettstown Council made what they felt was the best decision for their residents and Smith Township would continue to work in co-operation with Burgettstown whenever necessary.

“I congratulate them on being able to continue police protection in their town,” he said.

(Wallace-Minger can be contacted at swallace@pafocus.com)