Crescent Residents Express Dismay at Rumors of Police Disbanding
Residents come out in support of local police after hearing word that officials have looked to disband the department.
Crescent commissioners shrugged off rumors that the township has taken steps to disband its police department and hand off patrolling duties to the neighboring Moon Police.
Residents poured into the township's municipal building, many expressing concern that commissioners in July met with Moon Police about the possibility of taking over patrols in Crescent.
Crescent commissioners maintained that no immediate plans are underway to cut the community's police force.
Crescent Police, who are in the midst of collective bargaining negotiations with township officials, filed an unfair labor complaint against Crescent in 2011.
In that complaint, the union claimed Capt. Ken Longerman was threatened in October 2011 by commissioners, who said they were prepared to contract out services with Moon Police and disband his department if the union requested additional benefits.
Crescent Police dropped the unfair labor charge in April after the parties came to reconciliation, according to a representative from Teamsters Local 205, which represents Crescent Police.
But in July, Crescent Commissioners Karen Patton and Joe Sabol met with Moon Township Police Chief Leo McCarthy and Capt. Greg Seamon.
Seamon told Patch the commissioners requested information about Moon taking over policing duties in Crescent.
A Cost-Cutting Measure
Commissioners, speaking publicly at the township's monthly meeting, described that discussion as private and unofficial.
Patton and Sabol requested that Moon submit patrolling cost estimates. Moon has not yet provided those requested figures, Patton said.
Patton said rumors of a Crescent Police disbandment have "snowballed and gotten out of hand." She said the board planned to go public with the effort only after Moon Police submitted cost estimates for patrolling.
Many learned of the impasse through social media or "Save Our Police" signs that now dot the township's roads. Judy Withee, wife of the late Crescent commissioner James Withee, told commissioners that ousting Crescent's police force would be "a travesty."
Several residents criticized the board for not notifying community members that they had approached Moon Police about patrols.
"I can have a meeting with anyone I want," Patton said. "It was a private meeting until one of (Moon Township's) employees opened their mouth."
Board members made no mention of the collective bargaining negotiations while addressing residents' concerns.
A Tightening Budget
Board President Bill Cook said rising costs and decreasing revenue necessitated the board's effort to reach out to Moon Township.
"No one is looking to disband the police department," Cook said. "We're just looking at options."
Cook said without drastic cost cuts, the township might have to institute a 2-mill tax hike, marking the first time in several years that the township has increased taxes. Crescent's current millage rate is 6.5.
“We’re trying to look out for you, the taxpayers,” he said.
Cook said the sluggish economy and confusion over Allegheny County property assessments have posed a "nightmare" for Crescent.
"And since they started building these new schools, taxes have gone up how much," he told audience members, though the Moon Area School District has not raised taxes in three years.
Policing costs mark one of Crescent's largest expenses, totaling some $501,739.29 in 2011, or 4.706 in tax millage, according to the township's own figures.
Questions of Transparency
Residents complained that they have been kept in the dark about the dispute.
Cook, who told those in attendance that only one individual has contacted the township regarding potential changes to Crescent's policing, urged residents to call him with matters of concern.
Patch on multiple occasions reached out to Cook by both phone and email and called the offices of township Solicitor Richard Start. Neither responded to requests for comment.
“We will be as transparent about this as we can,” Cook said. “We will answer your questions.”
On July 24, Crescent Manager Patience Eckhardt declined to comment on the matter. She said the township was "not able to answer any questions."
Cook said the effort was not made public because "there's no information to share."
He said though no immediate plans are underway to disband Crescent's police department, the addition of Moon Police, which has more resources and personnel on hand, could be a boon to the township.
"We were told they come to nine out of ten calls out here anyway," Cook said.
Former Crescent Police Chief Todd Miller, who resigned in January and attended the meeting, disputed that figure.
"I don't see how that could be true," Miller said. "There's just no way."