Furor over police interrupts borough council meeting
Mount Oliver Borough Council's November meeting began mundane enough with routine business including the accepting of Councilwoman Sara Kudasick's resignation from council, the condition of roads in the borough and public hearings.
The meeting turned loud after Rosemary Geyer, a Mount Oliver business owner addressed council. She wanted to comment on a statement made by Councilwoman Billie Michener at last month's meeting that two ranking police officers shouldn't be riding together in one car when there were empty vehicles back at the station.
Ms. Geyer said she wanted the council to know "how safe business owners feel with two officers in a car."
"You want to see as many police offices in a car as possible," she said adding they all want to see the same thing: a safe Mount Oliver business district, a safe Mount Oliver area.
She pointed out when anyone sees the road crew with two men in a truck no one complains, and they do a "phenomenal job." "These guys [the police] do a great job."
"We have a lot of work to do up here," she continued. "It's hard to keep the battle lines straight… I would like to see more cooperation."
Ms. Michener said there were also budget issues to be considered with the officers riding together. "We can't afford to have two officers in a car."
"I feel the chief can help reduce costs," she said. Later adding "two officers don't need to do the same job in the same car."
"Regardless, you're going to have two officers [on a call]," Mayor Jeff Repasky countered. "That's for safety."
Whether separately in two cars or together in one car they are going to answer the same call to back each other up, the mayor said.
"The taxes are going to have to go up or we're going to have to lay someone off," Ms. Michener replied. "We don't have the money."
Councilman Dennis Obeldobel entered the fray stating an officer with four years' experience on the Mount Oliver police force would make between 66.7 percent and 78.8 percent of what members of the borough's road crew or street commissioner make in salary. The councilman declined to give specific amounts in difference to using the percentages.
When questioned about how long the borough has had a full time police department, Council President James Cassidy said it has been nine years.
"We try to hire as many officers as we can afford," he said. Next year borough officials are hoping to budget for the same number of police as this year: one chief, three sergeants, two corporals, four full-time officers and two part time officers.
"This borough cannot afford this government," Ms. Michener said.
Mr. Cassidy said they want to "do what's right on both ends." So far, in budget talks for next year, the Finance Committee has sat down for four and a half to five hours and "we're not even half way through yet."
Ms. Michener asked if it would be possible for the public to come in and join in the discussion to "help us out with our budget."
Borough Solicitor James Perich said the meetings are open to the public to come in and listen, but not necessarily be able to join in the conversation. The next meeting on the budget was scheduled for a few days after the council meeting.
"We ask our residents to be accountable," Mayor Repasky added. "They expect us to be accountable."
Ms. Michener said her criticism wasn't directed against the police department, rather against the administration of the police department.