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Weatherly council looks at building a garage for police cruisers

Published September 17. 2019 12:38PM

Weatherly Borough officials broke ground on a new municipal complex less than month ago.

They are now planning to build an addition next door to save wear and tear on police cruisers.

The decision came after residents turned out for a second straight month to support the police department and demand that council listen to police Chief Brian Markovchick’s concerns about space and manpower.

“I’m not seeing any movement. The same wheels are turning, but no progress was made,” said resident Lori Ursta.

This time there was action.

Council voted to begin planning for a new garage for police vehicles, and to form a council committee that will meet with the police department on a monthly basis so their concerns are heard.

At the onset of Monday’s meeting, council members said they wanted to complete the building project as proposed before considering a garage for the police.

The $2 million, 8,600-square-foot building includes space for the police, borough offices and a magistrate’s office.

Original plans for the complex had included a garage. After council said they wanted to keep the project under the $2 million budget, the garage was eliminated.

Councilman Joe Cyburt expressed pride in the new police station and said that all of the borough’s departments — including the electric department and Citizens Fire Co. 1, have needs for capital expenses.

“We got these guys a beautiful new building up there — and the way I look at it is, I want to finish that and then move on. Somewhere down the road we can address their other situations,” he said.

Council members Jeffrey Miller and Norman Richie also said they would like to see the current project completed first.

Mayor/Council President Tom Connors said he would propose giving the entire new municipal building to the police. Short of that, he would support a change order so that the proposed council meeting room in the new building could be turned into storage for the police, with council continuing to meet inside the current offices.

Markovchick said it would be wasteful to change the interior design of the building during construction, and converting the meeting room wouldn’t work.

“It’s still not going to flow right that we can move stuff in and out with our evidence and other processing,” he said.

Ultimately, council agreed unanimously to move forward with planning for the garage project after Markovchick and residents raised their concerns.

Joseph Thomas, a candidate for council, said the cruisers are suffering unnecessary wear and tear because the police department keeps them running 24/7 during the winter in order to protect medical and communications equipment from the winter weather.

“We should look at something where we could house the cruisers for the up and coming winter. If they fail, then you have more expense,” he said.

Elizabeth Parker said the police should at least have the same facilities as the borough’s ambulance company.

“Our ambulance has a garage and our police are usually the first ones at an ambulance call. For them to take things in and out of a cruiser is going to waste time,” she said.

The decision to form a council committee to meet with police came after Ursta asked Markovchick if council had followed through with their pledge to meet with him and discuss the need for manpower.

Council did agree to schedule testing for new full-time police applicants, but Markovchick said communication is still poor.

“None of the members of council including the mayor have met with me on any subjects, operationally. No attempt,” he said.

Councilwoman Theresa D’Andrea made the proposal to form the committee.

If the borough moves forward with construction, the garage would be located next to the new municipal complex, which is under construction at Main and Plane streets, on the site of the former Tung-Sol Manufacturing plant. The two buildings would be connected so officers could bring prisoners directly from the garage into the new station.

Markovchick said he would support the borough buying a pole barn type building in order to keep the costs down.

The borough has no funding in place for a garage. The $2 million in grants the borough received for the building project have already been committed.

Connors said if the project is built, the borough could use the anticipated rent from the magistrate’s office to help pay off a loan for its construction.

“The bottom line is the building meets our needs, and if we get the garage, it will be complete,” he said.

You have a hard time keeping costs down when even a small government entity wishes such a simple thing as a garage for the squad cars. Certainly, the local boys could throw up a pole barn, and they'd do it rather inexpensively, however, you have the PA Prevailing Wage Law. That will drive the cost up by... sometimes... 30%.
Now remember, this is a garage for vehicles, and so DEP, local zoning, PA Building Codes, and every other busy body agency will tell you what has to be done, how, and you have no choice but to conform. This project will end up costing way more than you would ever have imagined. My township put up a salt shed some years back... over a quarter million dollars till it was all complete, and that was over ten years ago. Thank goodness we have government to intervene in everything we do.

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