Category: Ford City

New Full-time Police Officer Coming to Ford City

 

By Jonathan Weaver

Within the first two months of 2015, Ford City Borough must add a third full-time police officer to its roster.

That was the ruling made by an arbitrator earlier this week after Ford City Police Sergeants John Atherton and Mark Brice filed a request.

Long-time Police Sergeant Ron Klingensmith resigned in November 2013, but no additions to the force have been made – much to the chagrin of the full-time sergeants and Mayor Marc Mantini – and council members have even had to accept part-time resignations.

Borough Council members have 60 days from Monday, December 8 to hire the benefitted officer.

Council Vice-President and Police Committee member Jerry Miklos was surprised and disappointed by the ruling.

“This is not good news for the taxpayers of Ford City,” Miklos said. “We were hoping for a better decision.”

“They put the screws to the taxpayers because it’s going to be costly and we will not be able to offer as much police coverage having to pay a full-time officer as we would have otherwise,” Miklos added.

John McCreary, Jr., a shareholder at Pittsburgh-based Law Firm Babst Calland – a firm that specializes in police matters -represented Ford City Borough in this case and in other cases the past few years.

Following a public town hall meeting in November, Police Committee Chair Vickie Schaub – who was not available Tuesday evening – said no decision on whether to hire an officer or not could be made due to the grievance, forcing council members to anticipate the worst-case scenario.

The 2015 budget – which totaled $7.5 million across all accounts – was released before Thanksgiving – and included a more-than 40 percent cut in the public safety budget – and terminating nearly all 12 part-time police officers.

Borough Manager Eden Ratliff said in November that changes could be made to the existing budget plan, but taxes cannot be raised or lowered.

A borough council work session is scheduled for Monday, December 22 with final vote on the 2015 budget the next week – just a few days before it needs to be passed.

 

Landlord Fees Remain As-Is in Ford City

Councilwoman Vickie Schaub was one of the two who voted for increasing occupancy fees for landlords who own more than one property with Council Vice-President Jerry Miklos, but the motion failed.

by Jonathan Weaver

 

Ford City Borough landlords will not have to pay more money in 2015 annual occupancy license fees if they own more than one unit.

As an action item during the Borough Council monthly meeting, council members voted to a 2-2 split on causing landlords to pay extra if they own an additional unit before the motion failed via Mayor Marc Mantini’s vote. Landlords will continue paying $50 annual occupancy license fees for the first unit and $15 thereafter instead of raising the additional unit price to $50.

Councilman Josh Abernathy – a fellow landlord – and Council President Kathy Bartuccio were opposed, while Council Vice-President Jerry Miklos and Councilwoman Vickie Schaub were for the action.

Mayor Mantini voted with Bartuccio.

“I don’t know enough about this – I’m going to go with what (Council President Kathy Bartuccio) decided,” Mayor Mantini said. “I oppose this for now.”

Councilman Gene Banks – who was the third vote in allowing the ordinance revision to be advertised in November – was absent.

Earlier in the meeting, local landlord Bob Iseman stated his case to keep the fees as is.

“And, if you raise it, what’s going to stop you from raising it again? There’s only so much money landlords have,” Iseman said. “We buy the properties and try to fix them and keep them up for inspections and (already) pay taxes on them.”

Councilwoman Schaub compared the annual expense to one most residents could relate to.

“The way I look at it is, if I have one car, I pay for that license. If I own 10 or five cars, I pay for that same license fee per car,” Schaub said.

Abernathy said not all property owners are treated the same.

“You have people that can buy a house for $2,000 and don’t even have to see if there’s a smoke detectors there before they move in and start living. They don’t have to have inspections, hand railings – their gutters can be falling off!,” Abernathy said. “Why don’t we fix the problem so it’s equal for everybody before we start raising rates on (landlords)?

“I’m against this ordinance until we fix the problem and make it equal for all property owners.”

The $25 inspection fees are also slated to continue

An issue with disruptive conduct paperwork – currently completed by Codes Enforcement Officer Jeff Richardson – also was discussed during the deliberation.

According to the former ordinance, ‘disruptive conduct’ was defined as criminal activity caused by the tenant or visitor that was loud, untimely, offense or riotous and disturbed other persons – of which was reported to the local police and/or the codes enforcement officer.

Landlords had 10 days to “take immediate steps to remedy the violation” after the written paperwork was received.

But, as Miklos indicated, there is a ‘disconnect’ whether Borough Police are allowed to fill out that paperwork or if it has to be filled out by Richardson – which causes a fee.

“I think the police can handle that matter themselves,” Sgt. Atherton said.

The current landlord-tenant ordinance was signed by former Council President John Lux and put into effect January 1, 2010.

Mayor Mantini said the municipality needs a full-time compliance officer – something not available since Fred Dzugan resigned in March 2012.

Council President Kathy Bartuccio also received a letter yesterday, dated Friday, from Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary C. Alan Walker that the municipality was awarded a $62,230 grant for use during the five-year Early Intervention Program – – a program designed to help keep municipalities from filing for Act 47 (the Municipal Financial Recovery Act).

Council members pledged a $7,000 cash match in October if they received funding.

“This is exciting news,” Borough Manager Eden Ratliff said.

Council members unanimously agreed to appoint Civic Research Alliance, of Mechanicsburg (Cumberland County).

About $470,000 was available in the Public Utility Fund and $213,000 was available in the General Fund accounts at the end of October.

Several items pertaining to the police force were also discussed.

A motion to purchase a new police car was tabled until proposals are given to Miklos. Grant funding also reportedly may be available.

Council did approve nearly $1,000 in repairs to the 2007 Crown Victoria by way of Mike’s Towing in October, as well as more than $230 for winter tires, and about $75 to repair the 2009 Crown Victoria heater. Both of those vehicles were received with the assistance of federal grant funds.

Miklos said council members would only have to apply for a $75,000 tax anticipation loan if they purchase a new police car, causing the motion also to be tabled.

The 2007 marked police car (disabled for most of November) has nearly 155,000 miles on it and the 1998 marked police car purchased earlier this year has about 92,500 miles on it. The speedometer reading on the 2009 unmarked car was unavailable due to the odometer light not working.

Former Officer John Hansen was paid $10 restitution from when a Kittanning man fled from the officer on foot after a vehicle accident in March 2012.

The actor in that case – Matthew Reddinger – pled guilty to alluding Officer Hansen, reckless endangerment and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle before being sentenced to confinement in December 2012.

As of November 2013, Reddinger was on parole and under the supervision of adult probation officers.

In two weeks, there will be no garbage collection Friday, December 26.

Garbage usually collected Friday will be picked up Wednesday, December 24 and garbage usually collected Wednesday will be picked up a day earlier – December 23.

A location for the 2015 council meetings has not been decided, but regular meetings are to continue at 6PM on the second Monday of each month. Council members are inquiring about having meetings in a conference room above the Borough fire department garage (which is attached to the Borough building on 10th Street) as well as at the New Life Center on 9th Street after audience suggestion.

The fire department conference room would need to be made handicapped accessible.