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December 19, 2013

Windber council approves contract for police force

WINDBER — Until Thursday night, Windber had one glaring need left on its task list to get its police department back on the streets Jan. 1.

Manpower.

That issue is now addressed, as council unanimously approved a four-year contract with Teamsters Local Union 110. In what was fast becoming an 11th-hour negotiation, borough officials said the deal was finalized in time to begin patrols when the new year begins.

“It took us the full six months we had to get a police force going ... but we’ll be ready Jan. 1,” said Councilman George Ledney, a negotiating committee member.

In addition to its part-time police chief, Rick Skiles, Windber will staff one full-time officer and rely on a pool of 14 part-time officers to cover seven days’ worth of shifts, Ledney said. Borough officers will work eight-hour shifts, with two on duty at all times, he added.

Through three-year deals approved by council Thursday, council also paved the way for the department to provide coverage for Scalp Level and Paint Borough.

The borough had been working since summer to restart its department after notifying financially struggling Paint Township it was opting out of a deal that relied on the township’s force for coverage.

New vehicles and equipment were purchased earlier in the fall.

New police uniforms, each displaying new borough patches, were folded on hangers inside council’s meeting room Thursday. They’ll soon be taken to the borough’s Jefferson Avenue police station, which Borough Manager Fred Oliveros said is nearly ready for move-in day.

Oliveros noted some part-time officers still must be properly certified to join Windber’s ranks, noting it might mean extra overtime costs in early January because it’s possible credentials may not come through by Jan 1.

“If it happens, it happens,” Councilman Jim Furmanchik said. “We have to make sure we have adequate police coverage.”

Among contract details:

• Part-time officers would average between 32 and 39 hours a week.

• A drug and alcohol policy, patterned after other local departments, would require random screenings for employees, Ledney said, adding that details are being finalized.

The borough also voted to take over the school resource officer contract with Windber schools that would staff a part-time officer on district grounds for the remainder of the 2014 school year. As with Paint Township this year, wages would be reimbursed by the district.

The borough is budgeting $467,892 for police costs in 2014.

Councilman Jim Spinos suggested the borough hold an open house in early January to show the public the new office, cruisers and equipment.

A date has not yet been set.

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

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