Grant, signage, park and radio on Chief’s list

by Geoff Fox

Hancock Police will receive a state-level grant to help keep local officers on the job.

Chief of Police Jim Robison told officials his department received a $2,000 grant similar to one received last year as a retention bonus.

The money comes from the state of Maryland through the Police Recruitment and Retention grant.

Robison said the grant is a renewable grant, so he reapplied this year for the money.

The money would be divided between officers with each receiving $200 for new boots and $25 a month toward gym memberships.

“Obviously physical fitness is important in our line of work,” Robison said.

Last year, officers got a $1,000 retention bonus with Officer Seth Hall getting an extra recruiting bonus. That part of the bonus was not included in this year’s money.

Rail Trail signage

Robison said he also walked along the Western Maryland Rail Trail with Town Manager Joe Gilbert after addressing signage issues along the trail last month.

There have been safety issues at the crossing at Pennsylvania Avenue and as well by Buddy Lou’s on Church Street.

New pedestrian safety signage for those two areas will be installed using monies from the speed camera below the schools.

“I can’t think of a better thing to use that money for than that,” the chief said.

Park signage needed

Mayor Salvagno said he’s worried about sign congestion and need to make better signs while getting rid of poor ones.

Some of those signs are in the Hancock parks and the police have been responding to parks because parts of the signs aren’t being followed.

Robison noted there have been homeless people staying in Joseph Hancock Park as they are passing through or staying for some time.

For police to enforce the rules of the parks, Robison said signs must note the park hours and rules.

He has looked at some of the signs in the parks and realized they can’t be read.

Bike patrol coming

As soon as the uniforms arrive, Hancock will have two officers on patrol while riding bicycles on the trails and in town.

Officer Shawn Faith and Robison are both certified in the State of Maryland to patrol on bikes. The officers already have a bicycle in their possession.

“It’s going to allow us that extra visibility down along the rail trail and all along Main Street,” Robison said.

When there is overlap in coverage, either Faith or Robison could go out on the bicycle and do a patrol.

The bike patrol will also assist officers during events in the park as well as any parade.

Radio replacements

Earlier this year, Robison asked the town to join with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in purchasing new radios for the Hancock Police Department.

At the time, Robison laid out a plain where the town would purchase two radios each year over the next three years and give the department a total of six radios for five officers and a spare.

The cost for those radios would be built into the budget each of those years.

However, during the September meeting, Robison asked officials to bump up the purchase of the radios to sooner rather than later.

After looking at the funds in the speed camera funds, Robison said it would be best to get them now.

The current radios are becoming obsolete, as parts are no longer being made to fix them.

“As they break down, they’re no good anymore,” the chief said.

Hagerstown has already purchased new radios for their department and the Sheriff’s Office is still buying a certain number each year, Robison told town officials.

In talking to the person who is in charge of the county’s wireless service, Robison said it would be better to buy all the radios at one time.

The new radios would work a little differently than the police’s current radios. It would also allow Hancock officers to communicate with Allegany County officers, should the need arise.

Robison said the current radios have been in use for the last eight years.

The current radios would become the officers’ spare or backup radio as they can still be used.

The cost for five radios is expected to be $20,000. Because it required a change to the town’s budget, a unanimous vote approved the change.

No taxpayer money is being used in the purchase of the radios as the money is coming from the speed camera funds.