Coalition of police forming in Peters, South Hills

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The South Hills will soon be home to an independent, investigative coalition composed of local police officers.

Peters police Chief Harry Fruecht gave council members an update Monday on the formation of what he called a “cooperative investigative team,” among members of the South Hills Area Council of Governments.

SHACOG already is home to a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) that responds in emergency situations with an armored truck and officers from nearly 20 municipalities.

Because that team has worked so well, Chief Fruecht said SHACOG members wanted to form an investigative unit to conduct undercover operations, such as drug buys, prostitution stings and similar actions. Using officers from another location can increase anonymity, Chief Fruecht said, along with mutual aid opportunities. The new team would be funded through SHACOG member dues, he said.

“It’s still in its infancy,” he said of the investigative team, which is being coordinated by SHACOG directors.

Chief Fruecht said each of the 20 member municipalities would have the right to vote on whether they will participate in the unit, including Peters council members who will vote on the issue soon, he said.

Chief Fruecht said there have been discussions about assigning one expert from the member departments to oversee investigations related to drugs, burglary and other crimes.

Chief Fruecht said the new team may also help to quell discussions about police regionalization.

“Regionalizing is a difficult task,” he said. “Eventually, I think that will become the way of the world.”

Council also discussed a letter the township received from Southpointe-based McDonald Land Services on behalf of Seitel Data Ltd. of Houston, Texas, to request permission to conduct seismic testing in the southeastern half of the township this spring.

Though the company would not reveal the drilling firm behind the request, township manager Michael Silvestri surmised it was Range Resources, based on drilling leases in that area. Range spokesman Matt Pitzarella said the seismic testing was being requested for Range, though the company has no plans to drill in Peters, nor is it likely to in the future. Mr. Pitzarella said the seismic data would be gathered for wells that will be outside of the township.

The company conducting the testing would be Dawson Geological of Midland, Texas. Much of the area has already undergone seismic testing recently by Geokinetics of Houston, Texas, on behalf of drilling company EQT.

McDonald Land representatives also expressed interest in testing township-owned properties, the largest being the lake in Peterswood Park. Mr. Silvestri suggested council think about allowing it in exchange for considerations, such as no blasting during the testing or reducing the number of residential streets that may be impacted.

Some council members, however, said they were opposed to testing on public land and thought a new ordinance passed several months ago would protect residents. Mr. Silvestri said the township had received no complaints about seismic testing done by Geokinetics.

The new regulations call for the use of “thumper” trucks, 47,000-pound, garbage-truck-sized vehicles, that chart underground rock formations by striking the ground with a 7,000-pound steel plate. In areas where those cumbersome vehicles can’t drive, small explosive charges are set off underground to create the same effect.

Companies can use the charges only if they present a detailed explanation of why they are necessary. Council must approve their use, as must property owners, who have to submit written permission. The explosives cannot be set off within 325 feet of any structure, well or spring, according to the new ordinance.

Other changes include a requirement for third-party inspectors to monitor seismic activity for impact on structures and to make reports available to landowners who claim damages were done to their property. Companies wishing to conduct seismic testing also must post a $500,000 performance bond and carry $5 million in liability insurance.

Residents of Center Church Road can expect to hear soon from the township regarding ongoing speeding problems on their road, after council members decided to forward a proposal that calls for two phases of traffic calming improvements. The first would include the installation of permanent stop signs at the intersection with Johnston Road. That phase would be followed by the installation of paved medials on parts of Center Church and Johnston, where speeding is worst, and electronic speed display signs to slow motorists.

The proposal is in response to a petition from local property owners, who asked council to alleviate traffic tie-ups and speeding on the residential street. Council has yet to decide how to fund the $33,000-$42,000 project.

In the past, the township probably would have installed speed humps, but it has been trying to move away from that less-expensive alternative, Mr. Silvestri said. Council members agreed.

Council also:

■ Unanimously appointed Bill “Buzz” Garner and John Hilzendeger to three-year terms on the township parks and recreation board. Another vacancy on the township construction appeals board was filled by former alternate member Rebecca Bowman, who was unanimously selected to a full, three-year term.

■ Created an assistant engineer position that would pay about $60,000 annually. The position would include conducting inspections, which could save the township as much as $30,000 per year, Mr. Silvestri said.

■ Set a hearing date for council’s next meeting at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24 for a liquor license transfer request from Ichiban Bistro, which is taking over the former Hibachi Japanese Steak House in Donaldson’s Crossroads.

Janice Crompton: or 412-263-1159.

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