FARRELL, Pa. (WKBN) – Farrell City Council voted Monday night to withdraw from the Southwest Regional Police Department.
The vote came after months of negotiations between the two sides. The main sticking point was costs to service Farrell’s 4, 500 residents.
City Manager Michael Ceci said the city was paying $1.22 million for the policing but was looking to cut costs in anticipation of a $250,000 budget cut, after a tax expires that was implemented in 1988 to assist distressed cities. The tax, known as Act 47, will expire January 2018.
“I just know it was a tough decision for council and it wasn’t about again, it wasn’t about the officers, it was about money and making sure that we controlled our ability to get out of Act 47,” Ceci said.
Ceci said that by going out on their own, the city will save some cash.
A decision had to made by November or else the city of Farrell would be contractually obligated to the Southwest Regional Police Department for another year.
Shenango Township withdrew from the regional department earlier in the year, citing budgetary issues.
With Shenango and now Farrell withdrawing from the department, the SWRPD includes Wheatland Borough and West Middlesex.
Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Chief Riley Smoot wouldn’t speak to WKBN on camera Tuesday, but said he’s disappointed and that regardless, all four communities have to pay for a $120,000 department deficit.
Since the council made the decision to pull out of the Southwest Mercer County Regional Police department, as of January 1, 2016, Farrell will have its own policing force.
The city has already taken steps to create a civil service commission to hire a police chief and staff a police department. They’re looking to hire more than a dozen full-time officers and about five part-timers.
“I already have created a letter and am sending applications over to the regional police office. Our hope is to hire those officers,” Ceci said of the officers who work for the Southwest Mercer County Regional Police Department. “Who better to hire than officers who’ve dedicated their lives to the city of Farrell?”