Burgettstown Borough Council extended a contract with the McDonald Police Department to provide protection for the municipality for the next five years at a special budget meeting Friday.
By a vote of 3-2, council passed an ordinance to enter into a contract with McDonald police at an estimated cost of $85,800 per year. Council members Jim Reedy, Phoebe Suica and Mark Sarracino voted in favor of the measure while Sammy Wank and Janet Castellino were opposed.
The board also was considering an offer from the Smith Township police to cover the Burgettstown area.
Suica, council vice president, said the agreement was similar to the one already in place with McDonald police. Officers would patrol Burgettstown for 60 hours per week and would be on call for all other times, with time spent over 60 hours billed at an hourly rate. One significant difference in this year’s contract was a stipulation that all 911 calls would be directed to McDonald. Previously, calls were directed to state police when McDonald was not patrolling Burgettstown. The contract stipulates a 90-day period during which either party could opt out of the deal.
Burgettstown officials did not release the specifics of the Smith Township bid.
One resident who attended the meeting was concerned with the way it was were conducted.
Anne Holmes, a Main Street resident, was upset the public was not included in the decision-making process. Holmes said the meeting never offered a public comment portion for citizens to weigh in on the police contract.
“The meeting came to order at 7 (p.m.) and at seven minutes after went into executive session,” Holmes said. “They asked everyone to leave. We had to stand in the parking lot. They didn’t resume until 10 minutes to 8 and we were sent on our way.
“Someone asked why we couldn’t speak. We were told we elected them as officials so they would decide.”
Holmes said she wanted questions answered as to why the McDonald police force was chosen over Smith Township. She said she believed the streets would be safer if a force that shared a border with Burgettstown policed her community.
“I don’t have statistics, but I have seen a lot more drug activity” at the community park, Holmes said.
Council also ratified its 2013 budget of $398,050 that kept taxes steady. The biggest expenditures were for police protection and the public works department. The $180,000, 30-mill real estate tax was the borough’s largest estimated revenue generator followed by the earned income tax of $81,000 and the local share distribution of casino reveue of $39,000.