Community leaders from Ambridge, Baden, Conway and Harmony held a private meeting Thursday to reaffirm their support to continue with a feasibility study on police consolidation.
Police chiefs, mayors, managers and board representatives from each of the four municipalities attended the meeting held in Harmony.
Afterwards, officials told Ambridge Connection that community leaders signed a memorandum of understanding to show commitment to continue with the police consolidation study.
Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel at the Pennsylvania News Media Association, said although the meeting didn't present a Sunshine Act issue--because there was no quorum of the individual agencies--she said the closed meeting did present a public access problem.
"Police services are extraordinarily important to the community and the public deserves to know what's going on," Melewsky said. "You can't do that if you are excluded."
Police Consolidation Study
In early 2014, Ambridge, Baden, Conway and Harmony began exploring the possibility of consolidating the police departments into one regional department.
As a first step, each municipality adopted a letter of intent approving a feasibility study funded by a grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development.
"We just wanted to know if it would work or not," said Harmony Police Chief Jim Essek.
At some point along the way, Essek said a misunderstanding occurred that left the consultant under the impression the communities had no interest in continuing with the study.
He said the memorandum will allow the study to continue with the first-phase expected to be completed in September.
"These boards will have to make a decision, which will all be public," Essek said. "They won't keep it a secret."
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