MERCER COUNTY District attorney withdraws offer to police

Epstein said the money will have to be used as a local match for the Weed & amp; Seed program.
FARRELL, Pa. -- The Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Commission won't be getting any financial help from the county district attorney's office to restore one of its part-time officers to full-time status.
The commission, facing a lack of revenue for its 2002 budget, cut two full-time officers to part-time status, leaving the department with 14 full-time officers.
James Epstein, Mercer County district attorney, attended a commission meeting in December saying he had some drug forfeiture funds available that he could give to the commission to bring one of those part-timers back to full-time status.
The department and the communities it serves (Farrell, Wheatland and West Middlesex) would be better off with full-time officers who are available for immediate follow-up investigations rather than part-time officers who work sporadically, he said at the time.
No specific dollar figure was mentioned, and the commission has been waiting to hear what help Epstein's office would be able to provide.
Needed for other program: The issue came up again at Tuesday's commission meeting, and Farrell Mayor William Morocco, a commission member, said he was told by the district attorney that no money would be available because the drug forfeiture money would be needed for the recently launched state Weed & amp; Seed program targeting crime and neighborhood revitalization along the Farrell-Sharon border .
Epstein, contacted by The Vindicator after the meeting, confirmed that he won't have any money for the commission.
A grant of $35,000 for the local match for the first year of the Weed & amp; Seed program, secured through the state's Distressed Communities Act, turned out to be about $12,000 short of what was needed, Epstein said.
The drug forfeiture money he had hoped to be able to give to the commission will have to be used to cover that shortfall, Epstein said.
No guarantees: There's no promise of help for next year either, he said, noting there is no guarantee the county will get any more drug forfeiture money.
"It's his call," said James DeCapua, chairman of the police commission.
DeCapua said he plans to contact Epstein to hear his explanation of the issue.
The state is putting up $220,000 over three years to help fund the Weed & amp; Seed effort.

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