The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


March 1, 2013

Regional police gains traction

Additional municipalities cast support

— A regionalized police force for the Forest Hills area has been debated for years. It has created more talk than action, but we’re pleased that the idea at least hasn’t been permanently mothballed.

Six years ago, a plan included a half-dozen municipalities making up the Forest Hills School District. That try never took hold.

This time around, the townships of Adams and Summerhill and the borough of South Fork are mulling entering into a study on a regional force.

Hopefully, the latest effort, made public last week, will make more headway.

We would expect the state Department of Community and Economic Development will be a player in any study. The department has the expertise and funding to help make things happen. It also can help answer questions the municipalities and their residents are sure to have:

* How much would a combined force cost per capita?

* What would the officers’ salaries be?

* How would the manpower be distributed?

* Who or what would oversee the force?

We believe the time is ripe for a regionalized force that has the promise of better police protection for fewer overall tax dollars.

As in the case of a study currently looking for roots in several northern Somerset County municipalities, there’s nothing lost by talking.

“We had a meeting ... and it seems we’ve got a bit of traction now,” David Knepper, executive director of the Forest Hills Regional Alliance, told our Justin Dennis. “Municipal officials have expressed interest in moving forward.” 

Knepper added that he already has started laying blueprints, but with an awareness of the financial concerns that snagged the project the last time. The earlier try also got hung up on unionization of officers on two of the forces. That issue hasn’t gone away. 

The Forest Hills alliance includes the three municipalities plus the rather-smallish Ehrenfeld, Wilmore and Summerhill boroughs.

As this latest effort unfolds within their alliance, we urge leaders of the latter three to at least stay abreast of what is happening. Certainly, DCED could answer any questions they might have.

Who knows? They might realize that being patrolled by a large force could benefit their residents, too.

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