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PSP budget cuts to affect Groundhog Day security

January 8, 2013

Masses await the arrival of Punxsy Phil on Feb. 2, 2012. This year, budget cuts have forced PSP-Punxsy to pull its staff working at Groundhog Day, forcing Borough Police Chief Tom Fedigan to think of other ways to provide security. (File photo by Alan Freed/The Punxsutawney Spirit)

PUNXSUTAWNEY — Budget cuts will prevent Punxsutawney-based Pennsylvania State Police from assisting Punxsutawney Borough Police with Groundhog Day security.

"We've had a number of meetings about this, and state police will not be able to provide manpower for the Groundhog Day, Saturday, Feb. 2 security detail this year," said Punxsutawney Borough Police Chief Tom Fedigan at Monday's Punxsutawney Borough Council Public Safety committee meeting.

"It's quite a hardship to fill 20 to 30 spots that have been manned by state police troopers," he said.

"I sent a letter to State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan requesting him to reconsider their decision," Fedigan said.

Noonan told him that it is not just Groundhog Day, but due to budget cuts, PSP had to cut back on assistance it gives to other police agencies as well.

Fedigan said it will be difficult to fill this huge void that PSP's absence will leave in Groundhog Day security.

"PSP wanted to know if the borough could reimburse them for their services," he said.

"It's the same issues that every police department is dealing with manpower and paying for it," Fedigan said.

Ben White, Punxsutawney Borough manager, asked Fedigan if this would mean a decrease in the number of bus stops for the trip to Gobbler's Knob. Fedigan said those plans remain the same.

"We''ll have to decrease the number of security personnel at other locations for Groundhog Day to compensate for this," he said.

Mike Porada, Public Safety chairman, said that security is even more crucial this year with the large crowd expected for Groundhog Day, which will be held on a Saturday.

Fedigan said he will continue to work on alternatives to compensate for the absence of state police for Punxsy Phil's big day.

In other business:
• Fedigan said the last report he read regarding the replacement of burned out bulbs in borough street lights by Penelec was from Dec. 2.

There were six different lights that were reported to be burned out at that time, and all of them were repaired, he said.

Fedigan said he observed a burned out street light Monday, and he reported it.

"We also requested that Penelec install its highest wattage bulb in the one street light on Clark Street, which they did, and it has made a difference," he said.

• Fedigan said police would check into a complaint from Porada regarding the stop sign on Stello Way being blocked by a trailer.

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