Mars district approves Adams police contract

June 25, 2020 Cranberry Local News

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ADAMS TWP — Mars Area School District board unanimously approved a five-year contract with Adams Township Police Department on Tuesday night that maintains the district's hybrid police force.

“It's the right thing for Mars,” said John Kennedy, board president. “We're hoping to do more community policing with this.”

The contract, which Adams Township supervisors approved earlier this month, allows two township police officers to join the district's three officers in monitoring each of the district's five buildings.

The contract was approved with consecutive, yearly rate increases of 3.5 percent in the first two years and 4 percent in the remaining three years from the original 2019-20 contract rate of $150,000. The 2020-21 contract will cost the district $155,250.

Board member Christine Valenta said she appreciated the length of the contract. Among other things, the five-year time frame helps the district to plan ahead.

“We now know what we need to budget for the next five years,” Valenta said. “There's no question about the direction we're headed in with this hybrid force.”

In May, the board voted 5-4 not to approve a one-year contract extension with township police. It was determined at that time the board would enter into renegotiations with the township, a process that lasted about two weeks.

Board Vice President Rita Dorsch said Tuesday that proceedings for the renegotiation with township officials went well. Township supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday in favor of the contract.

“It took some time,” Dorsch said. “(But) it did come to a positive and sustainable end.”

District parent Jennifer McAfee, who vocalized her disapproval of the board's initial decision to reject the one-year contract extension, congratulated board members on their move.

“I am very glad to see the campus police department will be backed (by) the Adams Township Police Department,” McAfee said. “I'm glad you moved quickly on that, and I'm glad it's a five-year deal. Good job.”

Board member Dayle Ferguson addressed comments McAfee made during the May board meeting McAfee referenced.

At that time, McAfee indicated key police practices and resources would come with the presence of township police, not district officers.

Ferguson said Tuesday that McAfee's comments “disparaged” the district's force.

“These are retired state police officers who are wonderful public servants,” Ferguson said. “Every single one of them would put themselves in danger to protect our students and staff. Every single one of them.”

Ferguson said suggesting the district officers were underqualified or not as committed as township police was upsetting.

McAfee's comment “ate” at Ferguson for days, she said. “I think if we're going to talk about kindness, if we're going to talk about respect, we should think about what their purpose is,” Ferguson said, “and appreciate that.”

McAfee said she appreciated Ferguson's honesty, but disagreed.

“School shooter is in the building, I hope that the Adams Township Police Department encounters them,” McAfee said.

Board member Megan Lenz clarified before the vote that she's married to a township police officer, but was eligible to vote on the item because her family doesn't benefit financially from the decision, according to district legal counsel.

The contract is effective from July 1 through June 30, 2025.

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Samantha Beal

Samantha Beal