The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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December 19, 2013

Paint Township cuts police force

JOHNSTOWN — It appears Paint Township’s police force will shrink more than the township initially hoped.

With the township struggling to keep its police costs within its $314,000 budget and the force’s union invoking a clause requiring work to go to full-time officers, it means the township will start 2014 with only two full-time officers, Supervisor Joseph Huff Jr. said.

“We originally intended to have two full-timers and two part-timers, but we can’t,” Huff said, noting it will mean state police will be filling more scheduling gaps when officers aren’t on duty.

“With the situation the township is in financially, we have to stay within our budget,” Huff said.

He said he was disappointed the township could not keep two part-timers on the force, but agreed the union had the right to enforce the contract language.

Rick Keller, a business agent for the local officers’ union, Teamsters 110, said the language has been in place since January 2012.

“It’s in the contract to protect full-time jobs,” Keller said, adding that otherwise, boroughs or townships would have the ability to lay off all of their full-time officers and replace them with part-timers. “You’d have nothing but part-time officers working.”

Paint Township’s police payroll will cover the two full timers, part-time Chief Rick Skiles and a clerk, Huff said.

Financial troubles compelled Paint Township’s supervisors to scale back the force into a township-only department after years of patrolling neighboring communities with a larger roster.

Huff said the township crunched numbers on keeping a third full-time patrolman for 2014, but the wages and benefit costs would have pushed the township over budget.

“My goal is to get this force back to 24/7 again, but that’s not going to happen overnight,” Huff said, noting the township will be closely monitoring department expenses quarterly. “As things move forward, we’ll see how we’re doing and we’ll adjust.”

David Hurst covers Paint Township for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/tddavidhurst.

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