MERCER CO. Panel's pay goes to keep police

The city of Farrell and the Mercer County district attorney may also be able to help.
FARRELL, Pa. -- Members of the Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Commission are giving up their pay to help the department get back up to full force.
The commission, acting on a motion by member Helen Richardson of West Middlesex, voted Tuesday to forgo the $50 a month paid to its seven members, returning that $4,200 annual total to the budget.
The commission had to move two of its 16 full-time officers to part-time status Jan. 1 to meet its $1,167,000 budget, and officials would like to get at least one of those officers returned to full-time duty.
The $4,200 won't be enough to do it, but there may be some other money sources.
Block grant: Farrell Mayor William Morocco said the city of Farrell will likely receive a $14,500 Local Law Enforcement Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Justice again this year and that money could be channeled into the police payroll.
Farrell, West Middlesex and Wheatland are the member municipalities in the regional department.
LaVon Saternow, Farrell city manager, said after the meeting that the $779,633 allocated to the regional police force by Farrell for 2002 doesn't include the $14,500 grant.
The grant has traditionally been used for equipment and vehicles, but city council could decide to allocate it to the regional department for salaries, she said.
Atty. James Epstein, Mercer County district attorney, told the commission in December that his office may have as much as $32,000 available in drug forfeiture and other funds that can be used for police salaries.
James DeCapua, commission chairman, said he will meet with Saternow and Epstein to determine just how much extra money will be available.
Reducing the two officers to part-time duty netted a salary savings of about $18,000 and an insurance savings of an additional $16,000, he said in December.

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