Seven Fields Delivers Regional Police Protection Plan to the Public
The borough’s plan to create a joint force with Evans City by next year rests on whether Cranberry officials decide to release Seven Fields from a police services contract.
The who, what, when and where of creating a regional police force with Evans City was up for discussion Monday as dozens of Seven Fields residents gathered to check out plans for a joint force—something borough officials say they hope to have in place by next year.
“We’ve done a lot of research and we’ve done a lot of discussions, but we want to hear from you,” said Seven Fields manager Tom Smith.
Currently, Seven Fields contracts its police services with neighboring Cranberry Township.
However, officials say the borough no longer can afford to pay a percentage of Cranberry's police budget, especially as the township continues to attract residents and businesses. Seven Fields is done growing, Smith said.
Under the terms of the contract—which runs through 2016, with an earlier optional termination date at the end of 2014—Seven Fields, which is made up of about 2,887 residents, pays 7.5 percent of the Cranberry Township police budget.
In 2012, that amounted to $337,074. By 2016, it will grow to about $400,000.
After requesting an early release from its services contract with Cranberry, the borough is now exploring a regional department with Evans City.
Smith said Seven Fields also initially reached out to neighboring Mars and the Northern Regional Police Department in Allegheny County about creating a regional force or contracting police services with those municipalities. He said neither department was interested. Also ruled out was coverage from state police.
Borough officials also asked Cranberry about lowering the amount Seven Fields pays for police service, but an agreement could not be reached, Smith said.
“We were pretty much told that they cannot charge us something lower than what they’re already charging their residents even though the volume of our calls is lower,” he said.
When a resident questioned why the borough did not approach Adams Township, which also borders Seven Fields, Smith said negotiations stalled out several years ago between the municipalities regarding police services. Adams Township pulled out of the talks, he said.
“Truthfully, this time around I did not even contact them,” he said.
Details of the Regional Department
Under the terms of the proposed police services contract with Evans City, the mayors of each municipality, plus two council members from each borough, with one alternating vote very two years, will oversee the department. Other details of the plan include:
- The department would provide 24-hour coverage seven days per week for each community.
- It will be made up of three fulltime police officers (including a chief, sergeant/K-9 Unit and a corporal) and nine to 12 part-time officers.
- Seven Fields would have a dedicated police officer from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
- Joint police coverage would be from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. for both Evans City and Seven Fields.
- Seven Fields would purchase a new SUV police vehicle for the department.
- Seven Fields would have a satellite office in the borough where officers could meet with residents.
(Editor's note: To view plans for the regional police department, click on the pdf located at the top of this article)
The proposed budget for the regional department is $495,856. Evans City’s portion of that would be $233,052, or 47 percent of the budget. The cost for Seven Fields would be $262,804, which is 53 percent of the budget.
Smith said officials arrived on those numbers based on the population, miles of road and incidents per month in each community.
Smith added Seven Fields would save about $90,000 in 2013 by creating a joint force with Evans City. Evans City would see savings of about $100,000 in the first year of the agreement, Smith said.
Smith and Evans City council member Ed Tanski, who also attended Monday’s meeting, agreed the similar size and population of the municipalities make them a good fit to share police services.
“This would seem to be a positive win/win situation for both municipalities,” Smith said.
Although several residents asked if the savings could be used to lower the millage, Smith said the savings would likely be reinvested in the community.
Concerns and Call Response Time
While one resident at Monday’s meeting asked the borough to put the plans for police services to a referendum vote, others expressed concern about how much time it would take officers from Evans City to reach Seven Fields, which is about seven miles away.
“Its not easy getting here even from Wexford and that’s a straighter shot than it is from Evans City,” said Seven Fields resident Dave Buttermore, who also is president of the Wexford Fire Company.
Evans City Police Chief Joe McCombs, who also attended the meeting, along with Tanski and fellow Evans City council member Kim Armstrong, said test runs driving between the boroughs took about 10 minutes—and that was at a non-emergency pace.
He pointed out that, depending on where Cranberry officers are in the township when they receive a call, it could take them the same amount of time to reach Seven Fields.
“The national average for police respond time is anywhere from six to 11 minutes,” he said. “That’s the national average.”
Officials say they hope to have the joint Evans City/Seven Fields regional department in place by Jan. 1 2013.
First they’ll need Cranberry’s permission.
Smith said the borough’s request for early termination of the police services contract would be on the agenda for Cranberry’s board of supervisors' meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. However, officials are not expected to vote on it until their Oct. 4 meeting, he said.
If Cranberry turns down the borough’s request for early termination, Seven Fields would honor the rest of the contract through 2014, Smith said.
When the agreement ends, the borough would again explore its police service options—including a regional department with Evans City.
“This just really truly seems like a perfect fit,” he said.
Cranberry Township manager Jerry Andree has said supervisors would consider ending the contract if Seven Fields first provides them with concrete plans for police protection.
No matter the outcome, Mayor Ed Bayne and the Seven Fields council members emphasized the borough would retain a good relationship with Cranberry.
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