by Jonathan Weaver
Manor Township residents and Armstrong Junior-Senior High, Lenape Tech and Lenape Elementary students will see more of a police presence again when school begins.
Manor Township officers have been scheduled for about 288 hours in June and July, but Supervisor Pat Fabian requested supervisors bump the schedule back up to 328 hours – where it was during April and May – for August.
“There’s money in our budget to add those hours. It’s my belief, as it was in April and May, productivity from the police department increased with those extra hours, Fabian said.
“Personally, I was involved in two incidents during daylight,” Fabian added. “I think with what’s going on in the County from top-to-bottom, (the extra hours are) needed. It’s taxpayer’s money – I don’t think we should have this big surplus that I’m seeing, and if we can use it for public safety, I think we should use it.”
In June, Police Sgt. Terry Bish reported that, during the 328 patrol hours in April, Manor Township Police responded to 165 incidents – roughly 100 during daylight.
More than 160 incidents were also logged in May, with roughly 85 of those during daylight hours.
Police incidents dipped to 116 events during the month of July and eight reportable incidents, including a burglary, an accident and a sexual assault.
Supervisor Paul Rearick agreed that he would like to see more police on duty, but offered a compromise due to budgetary reasons– reinstating the 40 hours beginning in September rather than August.
“We budgeted the extra money with the idea of the school opening in September. The day that school opens up, there’s going to be 1,800-2,000 people at one time in the township that’s never been before this, Rearick said.
“I don’t want to get into a situation where we have to cut back in November or December – that’s my concern,” Rearick added. “I disagree with rolling it back when the school’s open because (those are) daylight hours we can add.”
Fabian said the police budget is short of budgeting for 328 hours of police protection every month, but said there is money available in other areas to restructure the budget to make up for that financial deficit – such as money allocated toward insurance.
“There’s money all through this budget we can re-allocate toward that,” Fabian said.
Through July, more than $32,700 was utilized for police wages out of the $52,000 budgeted – leaving more than $19,200 for five more months of police protection in 2015.
Supervisor Chair Jim McGinnis also voted for increasing hours in September rather than August, and said he was not worried about adding more police protection when Armstrong Junior-Senior High opens since Pennsylvania State Police troopers from the Kittanning barracks and the Armstrong County Sherriff’s Department would be available.
Rearick said police incidents will not only increase at the school, but throughout the township.
“We’re going to have those people coming into Manor Township that had no reason to come here before,” Rearick said.
Police Chief Michael Karabin hoped the nine officers would be willing to pick up additional shifts beginning next month.
“It usually works out – everything shakes out in the end,” Chief Karabin said.
The new schedule is a significant difference from the- roughly 200 hours of police coverage that was scheduled per month in 2014.
Auditor Chair Grant Kanish asked if police officers would be present at the new Buffington Drive intersection or at the Edgewood Intersection each morning once school opens.
“You’re going to swallow 40 hours right there with 20 days of school and one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon,” Kanish said.
Rearick said while he was a Manor Township police officer, officers directed traffic from 3-5PM at the Edgewood Intersection after students at the former- Bellwood Garden Elementary School ended their day.
Chief Karabin cautioned parents or students driving to the new school via State Route 422. He hopes that motorists are aware of the new traffic patterns.
“Be careful going up there to eliminate accidents,” Chief Karabin said. “It’s a tricky pattern – you just have to live with it and hope for the best.”
Supervisors will continue to monitor the budget and police activity on a month-to-month basis and make any additional changes accordingly.