Police uniform changes cause council concern|
Friday, August 10, 2012
By Jeff Corcino Staff Writer
Clearfield Borough Council was divided on the question of new summer uniforms for the police department.
At last night's committee meetings, Chief Vincent McGinnis asked permission for the police department to use a different summer uniform, which includes a polo-style short-sleeve shirt.
The shirts have already been ordered; McGinnis and Mayor Jim Schell said they had asked borough Solicitor F. Cortez Bell III and he said it did not need approval from council. However, after learning there was some controversy regarding this he brought it before council last night.
McGinnis said the new uniforms would be paid for out of each officer's annual $400 uniform allotment so the borough would not have to budget any additional funds to the police department to pay for them.
Councilmen James Kling and Fred Wisor both said all uniform changes have to be approved by council and Wisor said he did not have a problem with the new uniforms as long as all the officers are wearing the same uniform.
Wisor then asked if the old uniforms would be discarded, but McGinnis asked that they be kept, saying they could be used for special occasions such as a funeral detail, or there could be days when he requires all the officers to wear the traditional uniforms.
The Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to recommend to council that the new summer uniforms be approved.
McGinnis also said a handful of officers would like to have the option of wearing uniform shorts in the summer. McGinnis said if permission is given, it would be up to the officers whether to wear the shorts, so on any given day in the summer there would be some officers wearing shorts and some wearing long pants.
For example, McGinnis said he would not be wearing shorts.
Wisor argued against the shorts saying it is a safety issue. For example, he said if an officer wearing shorts has to chase someone through the woods or brush their legs could get scratched.
Borough operations manager Leslie Stott also spoke against the shorts saying police officers often get scrapes and abrasions during tussles with suspects and said police officers sometimes have to go into less than sanitary homes that are infested with fleas and wearing shorts would expose them to greater risk.
However, councilman Richard Stewart said he did not have a problem with the shorts as long as it was OK with the chief.
Council member Patricia Kavelak also said she was not opposed to the shorts and said wearing heavy clothing outside for extended periods of time on hot summer days could put officers at risk for heat stroke as well.
When asked if any other departments in the area allow police officers to wear shorts, McGinnis said DuBois City does. Schell said the Johnstown Police Department does as well.
The committee voted 3-1 to approve the shorts with Chairman Wade Cowder, Tim Winters and Stewart voting in favor; Wisor voted no.
All committee recommendations have to be approved by the full council at next week's meeting before going into effect.
McGinnis also asked if the police contract could be amended to increase the distance officers can live from the borough from the current 12-mile radius to a 30-mile radius because there are now several officers employed in the department living outside of the 12-mile radius.
Stott asked that this be discussed in executive session. Council did hold an executive session to discuss personnel issues for about an hour after completing its regular business and took no action when they reconvened.
In other business:
• the public safety committee gave McGinnis permission to get prices to sell the department's two Heckler-Koch G36, 223 caliber assault rifles. McGinnis said the rifles haven't been used since he's been with the department since they have been replaced with newer rifles and asked he be allowed to speak with Grice Gun Shop to see how much they would be willing to pay for them.
McGinnis said since they are considered automatic weapons, they can only be sold to those who are federally licensed to do so, and said Grice does have the required federal license.
The public safety committee also recommended approval of the request by the St. John Lutheran Church to close East Pine Street from Third Street to the alley along the church for a block party on Sept. 1 from 1-9 p.m. provided the affected property owners are notified and do not object.
• the Public Works Committee opened bids for the Dorey Street paving project. New Enterprise Stone and Lime was the apparent low bidder with a bid of $78,950.
• street foreman Steve Biancuzzo reported the new flow monitors for the sewer system have been installed and said the street crew will also soon begin smoke testing again. The flow meters and the smoke testing are both enforcement measures to make sure property owners do not have storm water systems such as downspouts, sump pumps French drains etc. connected to the sanitary sewer system.
The committee also recommended awarding the trash removal bid to Evergreen/Violia for $405 per month, the heating oil bid to W. G. Satterlee & Sons of Clearfield at the fixed price of $3.28 per gallon and the removal of four trees in Upper and Lower Witmer parks to Payonk Tree Care for $700.
The Planning and Community Development Committee voted to recommend approval to:
• approve the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance request for the former Catalano Cycle Center property at 216 N. Third Street provided the applicant meets all requirements of the program.
LERTA gives tax relief over a 10-year period to new construction within designated areas. The tax break is 100 percent in the first year, 90 percent in the second year and decreases 10 percent annually until it reaches zero in year 10.