BY PAT FARNELLI
Borough Council hit some roadblocks in its plans to start up a municipal police department at its meeting Thursday night.
At a special meeting Aug. 16, supervisors opened bids for a police car that council had advertised previously: one bid was received from Port Dickinson Police Department for a 2007 4-door black police sedan with the advertised features.
A roll call vote was taken, and the motion to buy the car was unanimously approved.
The car will be ready by mid-September, so council discussed how the car would be transported to Great Bend, and whether it needs to be covered by insurance immediately, since it might not be used for six months, depending upon how long it takes to get the police department official.
The borough might be able to have the car covered in the meantime under the municipal building’s insurance, if it is only housed and not driven.
“We need to be very careful at what we are doing here, especially when we get ready to hire part-time police,” said councilman Jerry MacConnell.
Apparently, the first hurdle to be overcome is the obtaining of an OAI number, or Originating Agency Identification Number.
Borough secretary Sheila Guinan has been calling the Pennsylvania State Police in Harrisburg to obtain the OAI number, which is necessary to inaugurate a police department.
She said she has made a number of phone calls, and was told a letter had to be written to obtain the OAI. She read the letter she had written, but said it had not yielded a response.
Without the OAI number, the council cannot proceed in setting up a police force.
A married couple from Church Street attended the meeting, and voiced their frustration at the state of disorder in their neighborhood. Near the close of the meeting, the couple departed, then returned after the meeting was adjourned with a laptop computer.
“My wife is an investigator,” said Mike Crook. “She looked it up online, and when she Googled ‘OAI number,’ she found that if it cannot be obtained through the state police, there is a number to call the FBI.”
Dawn Crook also provided the council with the answer to the riddle they had just been puzzling: no one seemed to know what the initials stood for, not even the state police officials.
After an identifying number is obtained, the borough council plans to move quickly on forming a municipal police force. They said the coverage will be limited to the borough itself, not to Hallstead or other nearby communities, and is necessary because of the level of criminal and disorderly activity going on in the borough itself.
“Look at how many arrests are made here in Great Bend compared to the rest of the county,” MacConnell said, referencing the state police. “We have to move on this. There’s too much going on in this borough.”
Council voted to advertise for a special meeting to discuss this and other issues with the solicitor.
Council members said that another borough in the county, Lanesboro, had provided the council with a procedure and policies book that was developed and used by that borough regarding police protection.
They were eager to refer to this publication, but said the only printed copy was in the solicitor’s hands, and he had to leave the meeting early.
Guinan said that she had a copy on disc that she could copy for council members.
“I want papers, not a disc, so I can cross out and replace,” MacConnell said.