Mt. Pleasant still weighing options for police department

May 29, 2014
The future of the local police department was a major point of contention at Wednesday’s Mt. Pleasant Township supervisors meeting. - Emily Petsko / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

HICKORY – Mt. Pleasant Township residents want answers about the future of their police department, but officials say there is nothing to discuss.

Residents have been questioning supervisors ever since rumors circulated in March that a plan to disband the police department was being considered. That proved to be false, but some residents have taken issue with the information – or lack thereof – made public by the board.

At a regular meeting Wednesday night, a local business owner presented a petition with 20 signatures calling for Chairman Bryan Smith’s resignation. The petition cited a lack of transparency and accused Smith of lying about a proposal for a contracted police agreement with McDonald Borough.

“I don’t understand how this is working, and I still have trouble believing what I’m being told, since you told me personally that there was no proposal,” Rick Walsh, who circulated the petition, said to Smith.

McDonald’s proposal, submitted by police Chief Mark Dorsey at the request of Mt. Pleasant Township, included a plan for a contracted agreement between the two police departments, which would expand the coverage area. That proposal was neither accepted nor denied.

During a meeting last month, the board voted 2-1 to authorize Supervisor Dencil Backus to explore options and gather information on regionalization.

Residents who signed the petition also said a discussion between Smith and McDonald Mayor Terry Bennett at the March meeting was not accurately recorded in the meeting minutes, and those minutes were later approved.

Smith declined to comment on those points. He said the township is looking at all available options for police coverage – including the possibility of establishing a regional police department – and cannot provide any information yet.

“There’s not a decision being made ... what we’re doing here is looking at the options,” Smith said. “There aren’t questions that can get answered yet because we don’t know.”

Backus said he, Vice Chairman Gary Farner and police Chief Lou McQuillan planned to attend a local government academy training session this week at Carnegie Borough on the topic of regional police departments.

Backus said he was under the impression that regionalization was a long process that could take up to three years. He said the Mt. Pleasant police department is a “viable, active police (force), and we have to continue it.”

Backus said the board would consider future options while discussing the township budget beginning in October.

Emily Petsko joined the Observer-Reporter as a staff writer in June 2013. She graduated from Point Park University with a dual bachelor's degree in journalism and global cultural studies.

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