The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

October 20, 2013

Downsizing ahead for Paint Twp. police force

JOHNSTOWN — Paint Township’s police force next year likely will be a lot like the one the township fielded years ago – before it was bolstered to cover neighboring communities, supervisors said Tuesday.

Chief Rick Skiles will likely oversee a department about the same size as the one the township staffed before adding Paint Borough, Windber and other communities to its coverage area, Supervisors Joe Huff Jr. and Andy Tvardzik told residents.

“We’re trying to go back to our old system. That’s our plan,” Tvardzik told residents.

With negotiations with the Teamsters union still ongoing, supervisors have not discussed department size specifics, aside from saying they are budgeting $314,000 for police in 2014.

The department has employed a roster of 15 or so in recent months, including seven full-time officers who cover Paint Borough, Scalp Level, Central City, Benson and Windber.

In 2008, the department, which then only patrolled its own borders along with Central City and Benson, staffed nine officers, including three full-time patrolmen, plus Skiles as a part-time chief, records show.

At the time, the department’s budget was a bit less than $300,000, township officials said.

Paint Township’s force will only patrol its own territory as of January, according to current plans.

Huff said one clerk likely will remain with the township, while the other police clerk is expected to land a job in Windber.

“If we’re going to have a limited force, I’d rather have those officers on patrol than in the office filing reports,” he said.

The idea makes sense, said Skiles.

“There’s a lot more red tape with these reports than there used to be. Reports must be filed (properly). Records must be kept,” he said.

Skiles, currently Paint’s full-time chief, will return on a part-time level next year, while also serving as Windber’s chief. His one-year township contract was set at $25 an hour, with an annual $20,000 cap.

Huff said the township will closely monitor all expenses in the first quarter of 2014 to see if the department is on line with the projected budget.

“If we have to make changes, we will,” he said.

Benson Borough Council suggested earlier this month that it may approach Paint Township about reconsidering a decision to no longer patrol the small borough.

It’s a request Huff said the township might consider, if all goes well.

“But we can’t make any promises,” Huff said.

“We’re not going to look at anything like that until after the first quarter of next year. We have a responsibility to take care of our taxpayers first,” he said.

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

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