Residents voice displeasure over Burgettstown police contract
BURGETTSTOWN – A handful of residents voiced concerns Monday at the Burgettstown Borough Council meeting over the decision to choose McDonald over Smith Township to handle the municipality’s police duties.
In December, council members voted 3-2 in favor of renewing the contract to provide police coverage with McDonald police over a less expensive offer from Smith Township. During the public comments portion of the first meeting of 2013, some residents questioned the council’s choice.
“If the crime rates continue, no one is going to want to live here,” said Carol Matijevich. “Some of the older people in the area are scared.”
Smith Township offered to police Burgettstown on a 24-hour, 7 day-a-week basis for a base annual payment of $83,500 for 2013, with that amount rising to $85,337 in 2014 and $87,241 in 2015. There was no mention of the number of hours Smith officers would spend in Burgettstown on a weekly basis.
Smith Township police Chief Bernie LaRue said in an interview prior to the meeting that his officers were already driving through Burgettstown “a dozen times a day” during their routine travel through the township. Burgettstown is encompassed by Smith Township.
The McDonald offer included 60 hours of police coverage within the borough every week in addition to 24-hour, 7 days-a-week emergency response at a cost of $85,800 for the next three years. Under the agreement, Burgettstown will pay McDonald $25 per hour for work done in excess of the 60-hour limit.
Many residents felt that Smith’s proximity to Burgettstown would mean faster response times.
“I have nothing against McDonald,” said resident Ed Holmes. “I’m glad they’re here. But with Smith, we get more hours and not even a dime out of our pockets. Those are our taxpayer dollars.”
Not all of the people who spoke during the meeting were critical of the decision. A few defended McDonald’s police force and commended the job they’ve done since filling the void after Burgettstown dismantled its force in 2008.
“We did not take this decision lightly,” said Councilwoman Sammy Wank, who voted against reauthorizing McDonald. “We spent a lot of hours discussing this. It wasn’t a personal decision, and in my own personal opinion, we did what’s best for our community.”