SEVEN FIELDS (KDKA) — It is a sign of our times – local police protection handled by a neighboring department for a price.

The fact is, providing the basics for a functioning police department is an expensive proposition and one more and more municipalities are finding too much to handle.

The tiny bedroom community of Seven Fields in Southern Butler County covers a square mile and provides a place for 3,500 residents to rest their heads.

It’s an upper middle class community that has been contracting with nearby Cranberry Township for its police protection for more than a decade.

But Borough Manager Tom Smith says the cost has risen four-fold over that time, while demand for service has remained constant.

“In 2000, Seven Fields was paying around $80,000 a year, and in 2014, we’re going to be experiencing $366,000 a year,” said Smith. “It’s just a point we can’t afford the services at that level.”

With an average of 30 to 40 calls for service each month (including calls for dead animals on the road, and citations issued within the borough) the cost of each call comes in north of $642 says Seven Fields board President Jack Oakley.

Oakley says they’ve checked with other departments and found per call costs in the region run closer to $150.

So Seven Fields went looking for police protection it could afford.

The Northern Regional Police Department, which is just across the Allegheny County border, is not ready to expand, but Evans City was open to the proposal.

Under the agreement reached by the two communities, which are seven and a half miles apart as the crow flies, Seven Fields will get a full-time officer in the borough from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Evans City will maintain its current staffing levels, and the overnight hours will be covered by shared officers.

Seven Fields has another year on its contract with Cranberry, so the Evans City/Seven Fields Regional Police Department won’t hit the road until January of 2015.

When it does, Seven Fields will see an immediate savings of over $104,000 in its police protection costs per year.

Other communities in the area have already made inquiries about joining the new regional police department, which could eventually become the Southwest Butler County Regional Police Department.

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