Pubdate: Sat, 25 Feb 2006
Source: Valley Independent, The (Monessen, PA)
Copyright: 2006 The Tribune-Review Publishing Co.
Author: Chris Buckley


CHARLEROI -- Charleroi Mayor Frank Paterra has had words with 
council, the borough manager and even various borough employees over 
the course of his first seven weeks in office. The latest word 
apparently is mum.

"I plan not to have a conversation or a meeting with anyone, both the 
(police) committee and the council unless they have something to 
offer the mayor in reference to increasing the police department," 
Paterra said this week.

Earlier this month, council approved a resolution limiting the total 
weekly hours for police to 240 for the six full-time officers, 
including the superintendent, and 120 hours for part-time officers. 
That move came after Paterra added one additional officer per shift.

At the time, Councilman Ken Laird, chairman of council's police and 
finance committees, said police spending in the first five weeks of 
the year was approximately $5,000 over budget.

If left unchecked, police expenditures could be more than $50,000 
over budget by year's end, Council President Mark Alterici clarified.

The limits cut by half the number of shifts he has scheduled police 
since the beginning of the year, Paterra said.

But a survey conducted earlier this month by The Valley Independent 
found Charleroi already has set aside a larger percentage of its 
overall budget on police than any Mid-Mon Valley community except 
Forward Township.

Charleroi budgeted 37.6 percent ($733,294) of its total expenditures 
($1,950,721) for 2006 on police -- even before the addition.

Forward Township budgeted $350,074 (40.7 percent) of its $863,240 of 
its total budget on police.

Council President Mark Alterici said he has not spoken with the mayor 
since the last council meeting so he could not comment on Paterra's remarks.

Paterra said he spoke with his own legal council, who told him he 
could not declare Charleroi a state of emergency in reference to the 
drug situation. He had hoped to do so to circumvent the ordinance 
that limits police shifts.

"I feel in my heart that I can, but legally I don't think I can," Paterra said.

Paterra said he also learned he has no legal basis to seek a recall 
vote against council members who have opposed his plans.

"I am pretty upset with what has gone on in my short term in office 
because I was hopeful I could work with council," Paterra said. "It 
looks like we are on a collision course."

Paterra, though, is talking to other authorities, seeking help with 
his drug crusade. On Friday, Paterra met with David Hedges, senior 
agent for the FBI office in Speers. Paterra said he can't discuss 
publicly much of what was discussed at the meeting.

Paterra said he specifically asked if he should carry a gun, adding 
that Hedges told him no. The mayor said he left the meeting feeling 
the FBI "has my back."

He plans to meet again with Hedges in the coming weeks. Hedges was 
out of his office Friday afternoon and unavailable for comment.

"I plan to build a friendship and cooperation with the FBI," Paterra 
said. "I'm ecstatic that the FBI is going to help me with my war on drugs."

Paterra also plans to again discuss police with council. The mayor 
plans to ask council at its March meeting to rescind the ordinance 
that limited police patrols.

"I would hope my council would reconsider its ordinance," Paterra 
said. "This is not just my war on drugs; it's everyone's war on drugs."
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