The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

February 13, 2014

An impetus for others? | Regional police force pressing onward


The Tribune-Democrat

JOHNSTOWN — At times, it seemed to us like organizers who were trying to put together a regional police force were dancing the “Hokey Pokey.”

“You put your left foot in, you put your left foot out ...”

Paint Township, the municipality that originated the idea to study the organization of a regional force, had abruptly pulled out of the study because of financial fears.

“Just too many unknowns,” said township Supervisor Joe Huff at the time Paint Township backed out.

Thankfully, the township is back in, rejoining Windber, Benson, Central City, Scalp Level and Paint boroughs and Shade Township.

Now that everyone is on board, the task force is focused on the second phase of the study – figuring out costs, the force’s size and how it will operate. It will meet Tuesday to start hammering away on those details.

Task force representatives want to create a single, independent regional police force and have enlisted the expertise of the state Governor’s Center For Local Government Services for advice.

Based on state formulas and recent local coverage, the cost could exceed $1 million a year to patrol the combined territories that have a total population of 13,177.

“We’re going to have to figure out what’s important to each of us,” said Paint Township Supervisor Lewis Clark. “Every community has its own budget. That’s likely going to be a factor, too.”

We believe that, with tax revenues dropping because of declining populations, more communities should band together and look into regional operations, whether it’s police coverage, road maintenance or other shared services.

In November, officials from Croyle Township and South Fork Borough began talking about resurrecting their shared police coverage. Although a shared-service agreement had been in place years ago, it was eventually abandoned.

“The agreement’s in place,” said South Fork councilman Richard Vivian. “It’s just a matter of details.”

Paint Township’s Clark admitted that the second phase probably will be a lengthy undertaking, but we’re hopeful the task force can work out the details and keep moving forward to eventually have a regional force patrolling the communities.

And we’re also hoping that other communities will see the success of the combined force and begin talks of forming more regional police forces throughout Cambria and Somerset counties.