Monday night, Peters Township Council approved the expenditure of $8,000 to equip one of the township police cars with a new License Plate Recognition System that can identify stolen or wanted cars while on patrol.
The township will join North Strabane, Cecil, Canonsburg and South Strabane to take advantage of a $27,500 grant being offered to the municipalities through the Washington County District Attorney’s office.
Police chief Harry Fruecht told council that the high-tech system will make it possible for township police to recognize a stolen or wanted vehicle in parking lots, or while it is mobile. The new system, which only has been available in recent years, will be the first of its kind in the region.
“It’s something that’s expensive and we wouldn’t be able to afford it without the grant,” Fruecht said. “It’s something we can take advantage of.”
Several council members questioned whether the system would violate any constitutional rights to privacy, but Fruecht said there have been no challenges that he has heard of from any departments using the new system.
Council approved the plan by a 5-2 vote, with council President Robert Atkison and Gary Stiegel casting the dissenting votes. Atkison said he was concerned that the system could violate the privacy of persons parked in their own driveways in residential neighborhoods.
The issue of Marcellus Shale drilling in the township returned during the public portion of the meeting. Two opponents to Marcellus Shale drilling, Dennis Ceccarelli and Jet Miskis, used the time allocated for public comment to urge council to take a stand against drilling, and follow municipalities like the City of Pittsburgh in passing an anti-drilling ordinance. Ceccarelli said that as a home-rule township, council should vote not to abide the state’s Oil and Gas Act.
Councilman Frank Arcuri said that council is obligated to follow the laws of the Commonwealth.
“I took an oath of office to uphold the constitutions of the United States and the laws of the Commonwealth,” he said. “We have to abide by the laws.”
Arcuri said council has to strike a balance between property owners who own the gas rights and the township as a whole.
"We have to keep in mind what we can regulate and what we can’t," he said. "We have to comply with parameters of the (Oil and Gas) Act, and an outright ban on drilling is unrealistic."
Miskis also called on council to hold a public meeting with representatives of the gas drilling companies and the Oil and Gas Coalition to answer questions township residents have about the effects of gas drilling.
Atkison said council hopes to pass a revised oil and gas drilling ordinance in June.
Council also heard an update on progress in the last quarter from Jeff Crummie of the Peters Township Parks and Recreation Board, and a report from public works director Peter Overcashier on new federal regulations regarding street signs that will go into effect in years to come.
Council voted to appeal a federal guideline that new street signs are not to be in red and black, colors that have identified Peters Township's roads and streets for years.