Troy to re-examine freeze in near future
TROY - The revisiting of the temporary freeze on the part-time police officer line item in Troy is approaching.
The Daily Review asked Troy Borough Manager Dan Close if the matter would initially be discussed in a committee meeting and whether that meeting would be open to the public.
Close responded that "council will decide what to do with the part-time issue at a regular meeting of council open to the public."
However, he noted that council's Committee for the Protection of Persons and Property will meet to review and then make a recommendation to council, probably in the June meeting. Committee members are council members Mike Davison, Jim Warn, Jason Hodlofski, who is the council president, Close, and, if needed, the council solicitor, according to Close.
Close said that "the committee meetings are not open to the public and are not required to be under the 'Sunshine' law. There is not a quorum and they cannot take official action."
When asked the date of the committee meeting and why it wasn't open to the public, Close said, "A date has not been set at this time. It could be late May but more likely early June. There is no 'reason' the meeting is not open to the public, it's just not required. All official action is taken in the public meeting as required by the 'Sunshine' law."
Melissa Melewsky, Media Law Counsel for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association (PNA), was asked by the Review to comment on Close's remarks about the committee meeting not being open to the public. She disagreed with his statements.
Melewsky stated, "If the committee renders advice, it is subject to the (Sunshine) act and if there is a quorum of the committee present, the discussion must happen at a public meeting even if a quorum of the larger board isn't present and even if the committee doesn't take official action."
She continued, "The committee is an agency in itself. I disagree with their interpretation of the Sunshine Act; the definition of agency is clear and includes committees."
Close then responded that he would seek the opinion of the borough's solicitor regarding Melewsky's comments.
Close also commented that he talked to Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs "and was told that throughout Pennsylvania municipal attorneys are split about 50/50 on the issue. I re-read the law and can see PNA's point."
Then, he later stated that no meeting has been scheduled and no decision has been made as to whether it will be closed or open. He also said that the "council president is considering just doing it in a regular meeting."
As a result of the freeze, the borough's full-time police officers are working alone without any part-time help for the duration of the freeze, and the borough is relying on state police, when needed, Troy Police Chief Kyle Wisel stated in an earlier interview.
The freeze, instituted for budgetary reasons, has drawn the concern of some people in town, including two pharmacy owners who are worried about break-ins.
In a report to borough council, Wisel outlined a way in which he said the borough police department could be staffed at a savings of at least $8,000.
Wisel submitted the report at the request of council, which is examining the staffing situation with an eye toward the budget.
Troy Mayor Mike Powers provided details of the document, when asked for comment by the Review.
Under Wisel's plan, the borough would retain its three full-time police officers and add an additional, 32-hour part-time officer while eliminating the other part-time officers.
Wisel used statistical data for the entire calendar year of 2011 in preparing his report. The police chief said his data from last year showed that the police department was down in volume for calls for 2011, but the severity of the calls was greater.
According to Wisel, the approximate $8,000 savings would be realized under his plan because roughly $28,000 was budgeted this year for the part-time police officer line item, and his proposal would cut it at a savings of roughly $8,000 because only one part-time officer would be used. In previous years, up to four to five part-time officers were used.
In addition, Wisel said the savings could be more when the benefits and pension for a fourth, full-time officer are taken into account. Under Wisel's proposal, a fourth, full-time officer wouldn't be hired. In the past, Powers has urged council to hire a fourth, full-time police officer.
Eric Hrin can be reached at (570) 297-5251; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.