Ellwood City Borough Council will vote on a motion to advertise for a full-time patrol officer at its regular meeting next Monday. The motion was added to the agenda at Monday’s agenda meeting after a discussion.
[Correction 12 a.m.: The motion will advertise the position, not hire an officer.]
The police department currently has one lieutenant, one sergeant, eight full-time patrol officers and one part-time patrol officer.
Council member Judi Dici started the discussion with statistics concerning overtime rates for the police department. According to numbers read by Dici, overtime costs for January through March are $42,606.84.
According to borough records, police overtime totals were $182,056.58 in 2014 and $166,300.77 in 2015. EllwoodCity.org obtained this information through a Right to Know request filed with the Ellwood City Borough. If overtime costs in 2016 continue at the current rate, they will exceed $170,000.
Dici believes that a full-time officer in the regular schedule rotation would reduce overtime and save the borough money. A new officer would initially cost between $90,000 to $95,000 per year, including benefits.
During the meeting, Mayor Anthony J. Court stated he supports a full-time officer.
“It is more cost-efficient and part-time officers haven’t worked out since their inception,” Court said.
Court and Dici believe part-time officers don’t reduce costs effectively because they are used as fillers in the schedule and frequently work as an officer with another municipality. Council President Connie MacDonald stated that he believes a part-time officer would alleviate some overtime costs if correctly implemented into the schedule.
Council member George Celli had supported a motion to advertise for part-time officers at March’s meeting but didn’t receive a second.
“We’ve been through a million scenarios and part of the problem is that the person we pay the most takes the most overtime,” Council Vice-President David DeCaria said.
DeCaria referred to Lt. David Kingston, the department’s ranking officer. According to Court and borough solicitor Ed Leymarie, per police contract, Kingston has first pick on available overtime. Kingston’s overtime salary in 2015 was $50,503.59 and $57,012.84 in 2014, according to numbers obtained from the Right to Know Request.
Court said he believed much of overtime cost would have to be reduced through contract negotiations, which is a stance he has maintained in interviews with EllwoodCity.org. In an interview on April 6, Court said he wouldn’t lower costs in any way that compromises the safety of officers and law-biding citizens.
In a discussion with EllwoodCity.org, a council member said that the mayor and police department spend the money, but council is left with the bill.
MacDonald ended the discussion by requesting a motion to advertise for a full-time officer be added to Monday’s agenda.
[Correction 11 a.m.: There are eight full-time officers, not 10 as previously stated.]