Derry Borough Council announced Tuesday it will consider adding a second K-9 unit to the police roster at next week’s meeting.
The dog comes from the Westmoreland County Prison through the District Attorney’s office and will be provided for free along with funds for any necessary vehicle upgrades, Mayor Grant Nicely told the council.
The two-year-old female is fully trained and certified but had issues dealing with the lights and buzzing from remotes controlling the cells, which is why it can no longer work at the prison. Derry Borough has one K-9 unit, Smoke, along with two certified handlers, so one officer is available to take on the dog.
Councilman Al Checca did not like the idea of the borough adding another K-9 unit.
“I don’t know why we need two dogs in this town,” Checca said. “I don’t know what the first K-9 does.
“We’ve never had a crisis which needed a dog.”
Councilman Chad Fabian agreed, saying he didn’t see why the borough needed a second K-9 unit. But Council President Sara Cowan said a second dog could benefit the borough by providing a service to neighboring municipalities.
While the dog and needed equipment would be free, the borough would pay to send two officers and their dogs to weekly training every Tuesday, Checca said. This would be another expense for the borough to consider as it would be paying for the officers in training and another officer to cover the shift.
Checca said the board doesn’t get a report of callouts for the dog. Nicely refuted the claim and said he provides the council with a K-9 report every month.
“You’re not going to get full details on it but there are callouts,” Nicely said.
Checca shot back, “I don’t get any details.”
The mayor does provide a monthly K-9 report to the council but past meeting minutes have not shown any details on calls the K-9 unit has been on – just a balance of the K-9 account and any money spent on items such as veterinarian appointments and tactical collars.
Last month, council was informed Smoke had a drug find during one call.
Nicely said it is his goal to have three K-9 units so one is available every shift.
Census data from 2021 shows Derry Borough has an estimated population of 2,615 residents. Neighboring communities of Latrobe (7,983 residents) along with Ligonier Borough (1,497) and Ligonier Township (6,025) – which shares a police force – have one K-9 unit.
While Derry Township does have a population of more than 13,000 residents, Pennsylvania State Police provide the township with police coverage.
Checca questioned why neighboring communities like Latrobe and Blairsville police departments post on social media updates and calls for help and the borough does not.
“Do you really think anybody’s interested in this town, well besides you?” Nicely asked.
Checca said details of the meetings are put into the newspaper and the residents can decide whether “it cares about the community.” Checca added he is online answering questions from the community but other leaders appear to “duck their heads and hide.”
Nicely said he is out there answering questions from the community as well but Checca argued “no one knows who (he) is.”
Cowan had the council move the discussion back to the current topic of adding the K-9 unit. The council will consider accepting the dog at next week’s regular meeting.
The borough must also consider whether it wants to pay $7,500 to rebuild the motor of its plow truck or junk it and buy a new one. Fabian’s suggestion to the council was to fix the 21-year-old vehicle because it still works great and the motor will be like new. He was told the motor should last another 10 years.
Checca said the truck wasn’t worth anything with the blown head gasket but with the repair, the borough has an opportunity to get some money for it to go toward a new truck.
“You want to explain to the people of this town, ‘Oh, we had to get rid of it because it’s 21 years old but it runs like brand new,’” Fabian asked Checca.
Checca responded, “I have no problem doing that.”
Fabian said the borough should budget for the next five years for a new truck so that way it has a sizable down payment when the truck begins to fail again.
The council will consider whether to hire Mark Cypher as a part-time code enforcement officer.
Cypher presented his services to the board last month. If hired, he would be brought on as an employee and work eight hours a week, possibly in the evening and weekends. He was the only person to apply for the position.
Cypher is employed as a full-time code enforcement officer with Penn Township and covers Mount Pleasant, Export and Youngwood part-time.
Checca and other council members would like to see Cypher brought on for a probationary trial to ensure he can handle the borough’s workload along with his other jobs and that the work is satisfactory.
The borough will continue painting lines on its roadways. Checca and Fabian said the new line painting machine is working great. Being able to paint their own lines will save the borough some money instead of contracting the work out to local companies.
The borough also purchased a projector to be used at council meetings and by the community pool for movie nights. The council is working on getting the projector set up so the pool can use it before it closes for the season.
The Derry Borough Council meeting will hold its next regular meeting 7 p.m. Aug. 9 at the AV Germano Hall.