By Jonathan Weaver
Manor Township Police Chief Michael Karabin, Sergeant Terry Bish and other officers responded to nearly 200 more calls and incidents during the months of April and May.
During those two months, Township supervisors added 120 hours of police coverage – about 35 hours per week – during daylight hours to test before the new Armstrong Junior-Senior High School opens along Buffington Road and have a stronger grip on ordinance violations.
Sgt. Bish reported the increase in police incidents during the past two months compared to April and May one year ago.
“For the last two months, we scheduled 328 patrol hours. In April, with the 328 patrol hours, we had 165 incidents –roughly 100 of those incidents were during those daylight hours compared to April 2014 (when) we had 99 incidents and complaints,” Sgt. Bish said. “In May, we had 161 incidents – roughly 85 of those were daylight hours. In May 2014, we had 107 (incidents).”
Combined, the estimated-185 police incidents during daylight hours (which were mainly staffed by Officer Jacob McMaster) made up more than half of the department’s calls.
Last night, supervisors agreed to add more hours than there were last year (about 200) and in January through March (about 220), but did not commit to the full 328 hours.
Supervisor Chair James McGinnis and Vice-Chair Paul Rearick voted to schedule officers for 288 hours in the month of June – 40 less than last month – due to budgetary reasons.
“My concern at this point right now is, we’re not halfway through the year yet and we’re almost halfway through the budget – and we only had two months of added hours,” Rearick said. “I personally think we should have extra hours, but I don’t think we can schedule as many as we have been to stay within the budget.”
Sgt. Bish agreed and said supervisors would exceed the budgeted amount and have to go into deficit spending if the current 328-hour schedule is maintained.
McGinnis was also in-favor of at least some daylight hours to monitor ordinance violations
“We might not need one every day of the week, but a couple days a week? We can figure out something,” McGinnis said.
Supervisor Pat Fabian was in-opposition even though he was out-numbered, in-favor of maintaining the 328 hours during the day and night.
“I don’t want to run out of money, but I’m in favor of (maintaining 328 hours) because it looks like its productive – daylight and night – especially during daylight hours the past two months,” Fabian said. “I’d rather cut back in October, November, December to our regular hours.
I think our peak months are going to be in June, July, August and September.”
Fabian later said that he was not as concerned with the budget projection because supervisors could re-open the budget later in the year and allocate more money into the department from other areas – other than Act 13 Marcellus Shale impact fees, which cannot be spent on wages.
“But, I’m glad we still have an additional 80 hours, don’t get me wrong,” Fabian said. “I’d just like to have a little more.”
To date, Manor Township Police have spent nearly $24,000 of their $52,000 budget, according to Township Secretary Jill Davis – who wrote checks yesterday.
The annual budget increased from 2014 – with $2,000 more being allocated toward wages for 2015.
Fabian explained that traditionally, police wages and expenses have ended the year under-budget.
“It comes down to a budget, whether we’re going to be able to sustain what we’re doing,” Sgt. Bish said.
Sgt. Bish said the February 18 NexTier Bank robbery at the intersection of State Route 422 and Burton Road accounted for more hours spent in February, March and April, and “highly-anticipated” more calls after Armstrong Junior-Senior High opens for school after Labor Day.
Supervisors will consider either more or less hours after listening to each month’s police report.
But, Rearick agreed that, with the new school opening soon, more than the 200 hours per month scheduled last year must be considered.
“We can’t predict how busy it’s going to be – they could work a whole four, six, eight hour shift and not have a call or they can have another bank robbery or homicide,” Rearick said. “Whatever hours we do agree to keep or drop it to, I think we have to look at this every month to see where we’re at in the budget.
“If we cut back to what we had before, I think we’re defeating the purpose in what we originally talked about.”
In other Township business, after review by Armstrong County Commissioners, Shadco LLC of Marion Center (Indiana County) was awarded the contract to repave, install storm sewers and repair Short Street near the township post office.
The project start date is contingent on the execution of construction bonds, permits and insurance documents.
A pre-construction conference will be held at 10AM either June 24 or June 25 at the Township building.