FARRELL, Pa. (WKBN) – Farrell City Council voted Wednesday night to create a civil service commission to seek a police chief. It’s the first step in a move to create a police department for the city.
City Manager Michael Ceci said city council is looking to withdraw from the Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Department if an agreement can’t be reached on how much the city is paying to provide police service to its 4,500 residents.
Ceci said for 2015 the city is paying $1.22 million for police service through the regional department. He is asking for an assessment freeze through 2016. Ceci said the city and the commission have met several times, but an agreement has not been reached.
“We can’t wait forever,” Ceci said. “They are saying they have to go back to the union and all these different issues. We need to know if they can do something that is guaranteed. We have to know. We’ve been talking with them since May,” Ceci said.
Ceci said he is planning for a $250,000 budget cut in January 2018 when the city will lose .04 percent in income tax under ACT 47. The provision was put in place by the state in 1988 to assist distressed communities. The act allows for Farrell to collect an extra .04 percent in income tax until the January 2018 deadline.
Southwest Mercer County Police Chief Riley Smoot said the commission is doing everything they can to accommodate Farrell’s request.
“We are doing due diligence on our end to get to that goal. There is an expectation for that to happen overnight but it can’t, it won’t,” Smoot said. “Our goal, our hope is to have a Southwest Mercer County Regional police department in 2016. Whatever we need to do to get to that goal we are going to try hard to get there in a reasonable time.”
A decision has to be made no later than November of this year or Farrell’s contract with the regional department would automatically go into effect through 2016.
A meeting between the city leaders, the regional police commission, and an ACT 47 representative is scheduled for Sept. 15. Farrell’s next city council meeting is set for Sept. 28.
Smoot said if Farrell withdraws from the regional department, West Middlesex and Wheatland Borough could still act as a regional department.
Shenango Townshhip withdrew from the regional department in 2015 citing budgetary issues.