SHARON Council votes down police merger plan
The president of council said he still has the authority to initiate the study.
By HAROLD GWIN
VINDICATOR SHARON BUREAU
SHARON, Pa. -- City council voted 3-2 against holding merger talks aimed at joining Sharon's police department with the Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Department, but the issue might not be dead.
Council President Fred Hoffman, who, along with Councilman Lou Rotunno, voted in favor of holding the talks, said he has the authority to initiate such a study on his own.
Hoffman said the issue didn't have to come before council for a vote, though he had directed that it be put on Thursday's meeting agenda.
He said that, as council president, he could have gotten the study started without council approval and could still do so.
Hoffman said he wants to talk with James DeCapua, chairman of the Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Commission who made the initial overture to Sharon, before making that decision.
Is it worth it?
It might be a fruitless exercise anyway, he said, noting that there isn't sufficient support on council to take any action toward a merger.
Rotunno said Sharon should at least open talks with Southwest Regional and Hoffman agreed, noting the city needs to look at ways to save money.
However, Hoffman also said he would oppose any plan to reduce the size of the Sharon police force. He said he favors seeing it expanded.
Southwest Regional has 12 full-time and five part-time officers although its complement calls for 14 full- and eight part-timers.
Council members George Gulla, Chris Outrakis and Ray Fabian opposed the proposal to meet with Southwest officials.
So did about 20 of the city's 30 police officers and several departmental retirees who attended Thursday's council meeting.
The Sharon Fraternal Order of Police issued a public statement this week urging council not to take any action on a merger study without first consulting with the union representing Sharon's officers.
Travis Martwinski, FOP president, also addressed council before its vote, urging that the proposal to open talks be rejected.
He said later he was "very satisfied" with the vote and hopes the issue is dead.
Mayor David O. Ryan, a former chief of Sharon's police department, told council before his vote that he is "totally opposed to a merger with any type of police commission" and would veto any bill that came before him proposing such a deal.
Southwest Regional is run by a seven-member police commission and provides services to Farrell, Wheatland and West Middlesex, while Sharon's department is under the command of the mayor.
Ryan said he had prepared a proposal to have Sharon take over and disband the Southwest police department and begin providing police services to Farrell, Wheatland and West Middlesex but he never presented it to the commission.
Several members of council, including Hoffman, Rotunno and Gulla, said Thursday that they could support such a plan.