Gallitzin cuts full-time police officer position

GALLITZIN – On the heels of an announcement last month that Gallitzin’s two full-time police officer positions would be slashed to one, council signed a police service agreement Wednesday that will provide coverage to Tunnelhill Borough starting Jan. 1, 2014.

Tunnelhill Borough will pay $600 per month for the service, a deal Council President Roger Renninger said the borough had been trying to secure for about two to three years.

He said the fee was estimated by taking the average cost of police service per Gallitzin Borough resident and factoring in Tunnelhill’s population.

“It’s a starting point,” he said, noting the fee likely would fluctuate yearly based on factors like gas prices, service costs and officers’ wages.

Council also made the police-department funding change official Wednesday in adopting its $665,000 2014 budget, which tripled the payroll for part-time officers’ wages to about $27,500 from 2013 to 2014, while cutting full-time wages from a little more than $61,000 to $37,000, for a $5,500 total savings.

Full-time officer Lt. Harry Reger will be moved to part time, leaving Police Chief Gerald Hagen as the borough’s only full-time officer. There will be five part-time officers.

Renninger said he doesn’t believe the cuts will create coverage gaps; rather, he said, the borough is looking to eliminate overlap and run the police department more efficiently.

“I don’t know it’s … I don’t want to say it’s not a big deal, because it is a big deal,” he said. “But we know there have been some times where there’s been overlapping shifts.”

Renninger previously said the change would only come out to one fewer shift per week.

However, council members said Wednesday that the elimination would be slightly more, at two shifts, or about 16 hours, per week.

Renninger also said the move reflects a trend happening in municipalities across the state and the whole country, with local governments having to conserve resources where they can.

Mayor Ray Osmolinski agreed, noting that he believes Gallitzin will still have better coverage than most towns.

In his report, Osmolinski also asked for council’s permission to advertise for more part-time police officers.

He said other boroughs have had problems with part-time officers leaving for full-time positions elsewhere, and although the borough is in a good position now, advertising for more police is simply being proactive.

Council voted to advertise.

Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.