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MERCER CO. POLICE Fund request draws response



Published: Wed, February 13, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



West Middlesex officials were quick to point out they have no more to give.

By HAROLD GWIN

VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU

FARRELL, Pa. -- Farrell Mayor William Morocco's appeal to the other municipal members to increase their financial support for the Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Department met a quick response.

Morocco, a member of the police commission that governs the department providing services to Farrell, Wheatland and West Middlesex, brought the issue up at Tuesday's commission meeting.

The department had to furlough two full-time officers this year, reducing its complement to 14, because of a lack of funds. Morocco suggested that Wheatland and West Middlesex increase their funding for the department to help bring one of those officers back to full-time status.

He suggested $5,000 apiece as a likely figure.

Reactions: "We don't have 5,000 bucks," replied Councilwoman Helen Richardson of West Middlesex.

"We're paying our fair share," added Mayor David George of West Middlesex, noting that he has spoken to his borough council about providing more but has been told there is no more to offer.

Both Richardson and George are members of the police commission.

Councilman George Keryan of Wheatland, also a commission member, offered no comment on Morocco's suggestion.

Morocco based his request for additional funds from the two municipalities based on how much their police costs have risen since before the department was formed in 1992.

Morocco said Farrell's annual contribution of $799,124 is 21 percent more than the city was paying for its own police department in 1989.

By contrast, Wheatland's contribution of $83,335 is 11 percent more than it was paying for its own police force in 1989, and, for West Middlesex, the $89,947 annual contribution is 15 percent higher than it paid for its own force in 1989, Morocco said.

Getting more money from its municipal members isn't the only avenue the commission is exploring to restore one officer to full-time status, a move that would take about $30,000.

One possibility: The Mercer County district attorney's office has offered to provide some drug forfeiture money to help but hasn't been specific about just how much money is available.

Police Chief Joseph Timko said he is pursuing that angle but James DeCapua, commission chairman, pointed out it would be only a temporary fix.

Once the district attorney's money is spent, the commission would likely be forced to reduce the officer to part-time status again, he warned.




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