SHARON Police oppose merger plan
The FOP said it hasn't been asked for any comments on the possibility of a departmental merger.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU
SHARON, Pa. -- City police are urging Sharon City Council to reject any immediate plan to consolidate or merge the police department with Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Department.
The Rose of Sharon Lodge No. 3 of the Fraternal Order of Police issued a statement Monday urging city residents to go to Thursday's city council meeting at 7 p.m. to support its position.
Council President Fred Hoffman said no merger decision will be made at that meeting. He will, however, put a motion on the agenda asking that Sharon enter into a discussion on the subject with Southwest.
Southwest provides police services to Farrell, Wheatland and West Middlesex.
Southwest approached the city in August asking if Sharon would be interested in merging the two departments and allow the new department to be run by a police commission, just as Southwest is run now.
Sharon's department is under the direct supervision of the mayor.
The Sharon FOP said it is unanimously opposed to the city's spending any money on such a study or actually voting to join the two departments until further information is available.
The FOP hasn't been contacted or invited to participate or even make any comment on the merger idea, the statement said.
Further, the statement points out that Sharon has an FOP contract that doesn't expire until Dec. 31, 2004, and the city can't unilaterally change any terms or conditions of employment without going through the collective bargaining process.
To attempt to do so would invite an unfair labor practice charge from the FOP, the statement said.
"We're not violating their contract," Hoffman said pointing out that council, as the city's legislative body, has the authority to look at a merger suggestion.
It will be on Thursday's agenda, although Hoffman said he doesn't know if there will be enough votes to pass it. There would be no cost for the study, he added.
At an informational meeting between Sharon and Southwest officials in August, Hoffman and Councilman Lou Rotunno said they were interested in hearing more about a suggested merger while Councilwoman Chris Outrakis was noncommittal.
Councilmen Ray Fabian and George Gulla said talk of merger is premature at a time when Sharon, Farrell, Hermitage, Wheatland and Sharpsville are looking at a possible consolidation of all five complete municipalities.
The Sharon FOP agrees with that argument.
Fabian and Gulla said, however, they would be willing to look at merger cost figures, should any be presented.
Mayor David O. Ryan of Sharon said flatly that he opposes a merger of the two police departments.
The Sharon FOP said it has been excluded from participating in talks that could lead to the merger that would require police to cover a greater area with less officers on patrol and less officers to follow up and investigate criminal matters.
Sharon has a 30-man department, but Southwest only has 12 full-time and five-part time officers at this time, leaving Southwest with a limited command structure and no full-time detectives.