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Borough likely to keep police force

The Borough Council is continuing contract negotiations with the two-person department.

The Borough Council is continuing contract negotiations with the two-person department.

November 14, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - The two-man McConnellsburg Police Department, threatened in September with disbandment, will stay in force following a Borough Council meeting Wednesday.

The council voted Sept. 4 to adopt an ordinance authorizing the council to disband the department effective Dec. 31.

The council had 60 days to adopt the ordinance but the members, following an executive session Wednesday, agreed to let the deadline pass.

The council and the police are in negotiations over the police department's first labor contract, officials said.

The decision not to adopt the ordinance lifts a cloud from over the contract talks, Council President David Washabaugh said.

"It's a good feeling that the ordinance is no longer in place," Police Chief Gary Long said.

Long and Sgt. Douglas Thomas, the department's two officers, petitioned the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board earlier this year and won collective bargaining rights with the council.

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Initially, the officers sought a 26 percent pay increase and improved benefits in a three-year contract.

Long earns about $27,000 a year and Thomas about $25,000. Both have been with the department for more than 20 years.

Mayor Rudy Mihalik has said the police budget runs about $85,000 a year out of a total borough budget of about $225,000.

Thomas Finucane, the borough's attorney and chief negotiator in the contract talks, said Wednesday the council has no intention of enacting a new ordinance calling for disbanding the police force.

Nearly 200 residents supported the police department with comments and petitions at a Sept. 25 public hearing on the ordinance.

Councilman John Duffey, when the council was asked Wednesday if comments made at the hearing influenced the decision to drop the ordinance, said, "No one wants to get rid of the police department."

Finucane said the contract talks are progressing, with an agreement possible by the end of the year.

"I feel that we're getting closer," Long said.

The talks are scheduled for binding arbitration Feb. 6, Finucane said. An agreement before then would make arbitration moot.

The two local police officers cover the borough 43 percent of the time. Troopers in the Pennsylvania State Police barrack outside McConnellsburg cover the borough the rest of the time.

Long, in his monthly report to the council for October, said the department made 40 patrols in the borough and 76 in adjoining Todd Township, which has a contract for police coverage with the borough.

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