New Castle News

May 3, 2014

Neshannock to sell police motorcycle

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — The Neshannock Township supervisors will sell their police department’s motorcycle — if the price is right.

The 2000 Harley Davidson, with 11,482 miles, was included with 16 other pieces of surplus equipment the township plans to sell.

The presence of the bike on the list drew pleas to reconsider from township police officers and Supervisor Ed Stevens.

Several residents at this week’s meeting, and Supervisor Joe Gierlach, said they want it sold.

Supervisor Steve Demofonte suggested a compromise — keep the bike on the list, but set a minimum bid. He proposed $12,500.

In July, the supervisors bought the motorcycle from the New Castle police department for $7,115.50. Stevens and former supervisor Ralph Sheen voted yes; Gierlach was opposed.

The motorcycle was used sparingly before winter set in. None of the officers have yet been certified through a safety course offered by Harley Davidson.

Township officer Shawn Hill, who was at the meeting, said he had fixed the emergency lights and installed the siren, which was donated to the township.

He said the bike, which cost about a third as much as a cruiser and gets better gas mileage, could be used to break down barriers with the public because an officer on a motorcycle is more approachable than one in a car. He added he and the bike received a warm reception on the instances he has ridden it.

“You say 99 percent of the residents want to sell it,” Hill noted. “That is contrary to what I have experienced.”

He added he will participate in a safety class if the bike is kept. Lt. John Rand also urged the supervisors to reconsider the decision to sell.

Stevens, who left the supervisors’ desk and spoke from the floor as a member of the public, asked Gierlach why he wants to sell the bike.

Gierlach said his concern is safety. He said in the event of a crash, an officer in a car is safer than on a motorcycle.

Stevens said the bike “was a great buy” adding he doubts most residents oppose it.

He asked if Gierlach’s opposition is because the former board of supervisors had bought it.

“Is it personal?”

Solicitor Lou Perrotta stepped in.

“You are well within your rights to make comments,” he said, “but I feel we have gone overboard tonight with the bike. Let’s move on.”

However, Stevens maintained a motorcycle would benefit the township “and the cost is about nil.

“This is not excess equipment. It is necessary. To get rid of it doesn’t make sense.”

Demofonte, noting he has been a first responder for 29 years, said his “number one concern is the health and safety of employees.”

He said he understands motorcycle patrols are used in cities but in a rural area like Neshannock Township, an officer has a good chance of colliding with a deer.

“An officer on a motorcycle might not survive.”

He sees advantages to motorcycles, he said, “but you don’t just put people on a bike without certification.”

Demofonte said he favors selling the bike. “If we set a high enough minimum price, if we get what we’re asking, good. If we don’t sell it, I don’t oppose sending Shawn for training.”

Residents Nick Tullio and Ed Harris said they agree the bike should be sold.

“If this was a big city I’d agree, but in Neshannock Township, I don’t see it,” Tullio said.

Praising the police for the job they do, Harris said, “I don’t see the need. No one I’ve spoken to thinks a motorcycle is a good idea. I didn’t see the benefit and I still don’t.”