South Strabane considers police contract with East Washington

March 12, 2014
A police cruiser sits in front of the East Washington borough building. - Mike Jones / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

South Strabane officials plan to estimate how much it would cost for their police officers to patrol in East Washington, but one township supervisor thinks the borough’s request for 24-hour coverage is unreasonable and would cost too much.

The supervisors voted 3-2 at their Tuesday night workshop meeting to have township Manager John Stickle and police Chief Donald Zofchak put together the estimate for police coverage in East Washington, though they’re nowhere close to reaching an agreement.

In fact, Supervisor Ed Mazur, who along with Supervisor Jack Keisling, voted against the motion, said East Washington’s demands to have one police officer patrol the borough at all times is outlandish and unworkable. He suspected it would require South Strabane to hire at least four new full-time officers and purchase another police vehicle.

“In order to give East Washington what they want – they can’t afford it,” Mazur said. “I think they’re looking for a free ride.”

The future of East Washington police has been in question for months after borough officials ordered a management study of the department that was released in July. A few months after the study’s release, Washington officials offered a proposal to patrol East Washington for $118,433 in 2014; however, a that decision was delayed indefinitely.

East Washington Borough Council voted last month to send the “request for proposal” to South Strabane for police services.

Stickle said there is no timeline to draft the proposal, and it would have to be approved by township supervisors before being sent back to the borough for consideration.

“It will take a lot of time working on this (proposal), and there are many things to consider,” Stickle said. “There’s no doubt we would have to hire more police officers if we’re going to patrol East Washington.”

He could not estimate how much the proposal would cost and deferred questions to Zofchak, who could not be reached for comment.

“He’s more familiar with what they would need in the proposal,” Stickle said.

But Mazur said the 24-hour coverage for a borough the size of East Washington is not economically feasible and noted police don’t constantly patrol every neighborhood in South Strabane. He thinks it would make more sense for South Strabane officers to periodically drive through East Washington and respond to calls when necessary.

“If they were willing to accept the same type of patrolling that we do in South Strabane for the township residents, then that would be something that could be entertained,” Mazur said.

He also took issue with East Washington demanding a one-year contract that could be terminated by either side in 120 days. Mazur said that stipulation, instead of a long-term agreement, makes it risky for South Strabane to hire new officers, since the contract might be terminated early.

South Strabane’s next supervisors meeting is scheduled for March 25, and it’s too early to know if the township will have the police contract estimate completed then.

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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