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Gallitzin Townhsip plan to disband police draws ire

Residents speak out against cutting local law enforcement

ASHVILLE — Gallitzin Township residents filled the small conference room at the municipal building Thursday evening to speak out against a proposed idea from township supervisors to disband local police. 

Before public comment, Supervisor Gary Link discussed the cost of keeping the township police force. He said the total cost of the part-time department was $208,744 over the past five years, with $26,216 netted from writing tickets and citations. 

Based on public input, residents overwhelmingly opposed the idea of losing local police. Many were concerned about the level of protection they may receive after shifting responsibility to state police. Some residents said that the tax money was worth the service the local police provide.

After the meeting, Barry Launi, 72, said the township police have always taken care of the local residents. 

“Why they would want to disband them is beyond any resident here,” he said. 

Launi was concerned state police would only respond to “major incidents,” like accidents or criminal activity, and not issues involving township ordinances.

“I think everyone needs police protection in this day and age,” he said.

Supervisor Bill Golden said that the meeting was held not to make a final decision on whether or not to disband the police but to discuss the idea with township residents. 

“This was just to see if the service is worth keeping or not keeping,” he said. “We’re taking everything into consideration.”

Sue Balzano, township secretary, said that the timing of the discussion was due to the need for a tentative annual budget for next month’s meeting on Oct. 1. She said each year the township police nets a loss. 

“It’s not that they don’t give a good service,” she said. “It’s just that the money is important.” 

After the meeting, Chief of Police Joe Hindinger questioned the financial argument that township supervisors presented, citing the recent purchases of new vehicles for plowing roads. He also pointed to the backing from community members to keep the police force. 

“You saw the support from the community,” he said. 

Hindinger said he was originally made aware of the discussion through a contact at the Pennsylvania State Police. Hindinger’s contact said township solicitor Blair Pawlowski had reached out about the topic of disbanding.

Golden and Balzano confirmed Pawlowski had reached out to the state police but said that Pawlowski had done so on his own accord to find out more about the subject in question. 

Pawlowski, who was in attendance, said after the meeting that since the subject came up, he had not spoken to a supervisor. 

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