Masontown officials say speeding a problem
By Rebekah Sungala, Herald-Standard
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MASONTOWN - Responding to comments made at Tuesday's council meeting regarding the police department, Masontown Mayor Thomas Loukota acknowledged that speeding is a problem in the borough.

However, Loukota said the borough has a police department residents should be proud of and said officers are out there writing tickets in an attempt to curtail the speeding.

"It's not like the officers are sitting down the station with their feet propped up all day watching television," he said.

Reached by phone Wednesday, Loukota said he's not exactly sure what council's problem with the police department is, but said he doesn't believe "the press is the place to air" any problems.

At Tuesday's meeting, Councilman Joe Volansky voiced displeasure with the police department and made a motion requesting that police Chief Rich Barron be present for the next council meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 13 in the municipal building.

The motion passed unanimously, with council members Bob Brown, Carole Daniels, Frank McLaughlin and Harry Lee voting yes. Council members Charles Popovich Jr. and Thomas J. Salonick were absent, as was Loukota.

Volansky said he's made several requests over the last few months, asking that police officers use VASCAR speed-detection equipment to catch speeders on the east side of the borough, from Main Street to the Sandy Bottom area, where most of the alleged speeding occurs.

Speeding, according to Volansky, is a huge problem on East Church Avenue, especially in the area of Smithfield Road. "That's where all the speeding is going on, and it's ridiculous," Volansky said.

Volansky said the police department is not monitoring speeding enough in the borough, and not at all in the east side.

Referring to the police report council members received, Volansky said officers only issued 24 traffic citations during the month of December, which means each officer is averaging one citation per week.

As for VASCAR, Volansky said Wednesday that officers aren't using the equipment in the east side of the borough. According to the police report, Volansky said only 11 VASCAR-related traffic citations were issued in December, all of them occurring in the west side of the borough.

Volansky said he lives on East Church Avenue and that speeding is definitely a problem. "I've never even seen them doing VASCAR here," he said, referring to the area near his house. Volansky said officers do use VASCAR on a different section of East Church Avenue.

Loukota said he is concerned with speeding and said he made a request to Barron in writing, asking the officers to use VASCAR to "put a damper on speeding."

However, Loukota said he considers speeding a "town-wide problem," and not just a problem on the east side of the borough. "It's a town-wide problem and that's exactly the way I'm addressing it. If anyone has a problem with that, they can see me," he said.

Volansky said officers need to be specific in their reports when saying where VASCAR was used and said council members have a right to see those reports and know where VASCAR speed checks are being conducted.

Volansky said police officers work for the borough and should respond to requests made by council members on behalf of borough residents.

"I'm not trying to be smart about it and make myself look good, or make anybody look bad, but speeding is a concern," Volansky said.

Volansky said police officers need to be out using VASCAR and writing citations, not to make money, but to make the borough safer.

Likewise, Loukota said he's also concerned about safety.

Loukota said he has "an open-door policy" and that anyone who has a problem with the police department should feel free to stop by and talk to him, noting that he and Barron will be present for the next meeting.