Dec. 13--Police will soon be keeping watch over the Charleroi business district from above.
Charleroi councilman Paul Pivovarnik announced at Thursday's meeting that one camera is already operating from the borough building and four more stationary cameras will be installed to monitor Fallowfield and McKean avenues between Fourth and Seventh streets.
Pivovarnik declined to disclose the future locations, but called them "strategic."
"We will work with business owners to go into partnership on some of them," Pivovarnik said. "We've gotten some grants and funding ... there's no tax money involved in this. We want to get them installed by spring once we solidify the funds from the grants."
The cameras will be purchased from and installed by Crystalline Technologies LLC in Monessen.
Charleroi is following a similar strategy already executed by Monessen police Chief John Mandarino.
A handful of Monessen businesses have joined the security network at their own expense.
Pivovarnik said Charleroi Regional police have already made one drug arrest because of camera surveillance from the borough building. That camera is able to pan, tilt and zoom.
Police recently spotted a man allegedly rolling a marijuana cigarette and smoking it in the parking lot outside the Subway restaurant, Pivovarnik said. A police officer simply walked across the street and made the arrest, he said.
"We think the cameras will make for a safer downtown area," Pivovarnik said. "We're trying to attract new businesses to come in, so this will enhance the safety of the downtown business district. ... In a few years, we'd like to proceed up to the residential area and have multiple coverage of the town."
Pivovarnik also said the Charleroi Regional police board has reached a four-year contract with the police union, Teamsters Local 205, beginning in January.
The deal includes a pay increase, added vacation days and full health insurance coverage for eight full-time officers of the regional force, he said. The board had to switch health insurance companies to keep the approximately $38,000 annual cost from skyrocketing.
With solicitor Mike Lucas to be sworn in next month as a Washington County Common Pleas judge, council unanimously appointed Alan Benyak as the new borough solicitor. Benyak, 49, of Carroll Township, runs a private practice in Charleroi.
Council also approved a resolution installing a $50 fee for businesses who wish to place advertisements and other items outside on borough sidewalks.
Businesses who want to place limited items on a sidewalk can pay the fee to obtain an annual permit, council president Mark Alterici said.
Council recently passed an ordinance banning certain items from being placed along sidewalks, including what borough manager Donn Henderson termed as "junk" -- such as used appliances and tires. Only five businesses have approached the borough about paying the exemption fee, Henderson said.
In addition, council reappointed Tom Santoro to the Charleroi Borough Water Authority Board and tentatively approved council's reorganization meeting to be held 6 p.m.Jan. 6 at the Charleroi American Legion while moving its regular meeting to Jan. 16.
Council honored former Charleroi fire Chief Robert Whiten Sr. for 50 years of service as a volunteer firefighter. Whiten, 77, is still an active member and goes on fire calls. His son, Robert Jr., is the borough's current fire chief.
Also honored were Lucas, outgoing Mayor Nancy Ellis and outgoing councilmen Alterici and Walt Stelma. Sylvia Whiten, who is retiring after five years as a part-time borough clerk, also received a citation.
State Sen. Tim Solobay, along with Washington County Commissioners Larry Maggi and Harlan Shober, presented citations to a handful of honorees.
Ellis was honored for her prolific fundraising for several charities and projects and was lauded for her role in forming the Charleroi Regional police department in 2012. She thanked everyone, saying, "I hope I'm leaving Charleroi better off than when I came in four years ago."
In the meeting's final moments, Alterici gave an emotional good-bye after 20 years on council. He will now serve on the Washington County Tourism board.
"Being here helped me through a divorce, it helped me when both of my parents passed away, it helped me find a beautiful wife and kids," he said. "This borough has always been in my heart and always will be. You can't do this job for any kind of personal gain. We're here because we care about the community and that's what you have to do."
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-684-2635.
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