The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 10, 2013

Cambria Twp. looks to add to police force

Kathy Mellott

EBENSBURG — Two new eateries, a handful of smaller businesses and multiple new homes are all good news for Cambria Township, but the economic growth is bringing a push for additional police coverage.

Beefed up coverage, which one longtime official said likely will be approved, comes at a time when township leaders promise no tax increase for 2014.

“It will push us a little bit, but we’re fortunate. We have growth and we’ve been (financially) careful,” Supervisor Robert “Buzzy” Shook said Tuesday.

The $1.83 million budget is balanced using the local tax structure of 9.65 mills, a rate that has not changed in what Shook described as an 18- to 20-year period.

Expected to be granted early next year is a request by police Chief Mark Westrick for two additional police officers, a move that brings the full-time complement to five, including the chief.

“We’re trying to be a little forward-thinking,” Westrick said. “We want to be more proactive in our policing.”

With the current force of three full-timers and five part-timers, including some who choose to work limited hours, the township finds itself being more reactive, he said.

Details of the enhancement will be worked out by Westrick. The supervisors are likely to follow many of his recommendations, Shook said.

Any part-timers bumped up to full time and new hires will determine the hours of coverage, but the goal is to have an officer on duty 24 hours a day seven days a week, he said.

“That would darn near sew up the coverage,” Shook said.

Slow response by township officers was one of the complaints Shook said he heard from residents at election time.

But just keeping an officer on duty at all times does not mean an immediate response to residential and business calls.

Cambria Township has what Shook estimated as between 108 and 110 miles, including the heavy traffic areas of routes 219, 22 and 422.

“We have more road miles than any other township in Cambria County, including Richland Township,” Shook said.

The national restaurant chain Applebee’s and the Altoona-based Hoss’s Steak & Sea House are locating in the township.

Kathy Mellott is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at