The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 11, 2013

‘It’s worth a look’

Area police forces study regional coverage

— “To me, it’s worth a look. If it doesn’t work out, nothing changes. We move on.”

No one looking into creating a six- and possibly eight-municipality regional police force could have said it better than did Steve Buncich, a Conemaugh Township supervisor.

Conemaugh and Shade townships last week came on board as talks moved forward on a force that could serve the northern tier of Somerset County. Others involved in the original plan are Paint Township and Paint, Benson, Central City, Scalp Level and Windber boroughs.

Those spearheading the effort had an important message for residents: It’s an idea only and any study by the state Department of Community and Economic Development would not commit any of the communities to partner in a regional force.

We find exciting the fact that leaders in several municipalities are looking for ways to offer their residents better police coverage at less cost. Any time entities such as municipal governments or school districts share services or make joint purchases, good things happen for taxpayers.

“We have a good police department,” Buncich said. “But if we can possibly get the same level of service or better for less money, we owe it to the taxpayers to explore a regional move.”

Absolutely. We suspect all elected leaders involved in the current talks feel the same.

As reported by our David Hurst, if all eight communities were served by one force, it would serve a population of approximately 20,000 residents and cover nearly 150 square miles.

The force presumably would be under the direction of a commission made up of representatives from each municipality.

Dozens of such regional departments exist throughout the state. We suspect many were hatched out of a need by individual municipalities to get a better bang for their dwindling tax dollars.

We see a regional police force as a win-win for cash-strapped municipalities and a public clamoring for beefed-up police services.

As any study on a regional force for northern Somerset County moves forward, we urge area residents with questions or input to attend their borough or township meetings.

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