By JENNIFER FITCH
7:18 PM EST, January 23, 2013
Mercersburg-area business people claim frequent truck inspections are hurting the community’s commerce, but the police chief said his department simply is making the streets safer.
During a Tuscarora Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday, business leaders peppered Mercersburg Police Chief John D. Zechman and Mayor James Zeger with questions and concerns about the police department’s operations. The majority of the session focused on an officer’s regular inspections of commercial vehicles.
The basic inspection looks at items such as tail lamps, windshield wipers, tires and turn signals, and can become more extensive than that.
“We wanted to make sure the trucks were safe and in compliance with federal regulations,” Zechman said.
Some business owners report the inspections can last 45 minutes to two hours. That, they said, not only affects time-sensitive deliveries such as food and asphalt, but causes their vendors to add surcharges for delays.
Melissa Stuff of Agronomy Inc. said she is upset the borough started the inspections without doing a traffic or safety study first.
“A lot of people consider it pure harassment,” she said.
Zechman said he considered sending an officer for inspections certification a few years ago, but found the process to be too costly. The department then hired Roger Sheffield, a former Pennsylvania State Police trooper who already was certified.
For 2013, Sheffield, who works part time, will need to do 70 inspections to maintain his certification, Zechman said.
Of 33 inspections done last year, 21 resulted in violations being found, Zechman said.
“I don’t want trucks to avoid the borough, but I want them to be in compliance with the law,” he said, saying he has concerns trucks will malfunction on the nearby mountains and cause accidents.
Businessman William Sanders told Zechman every truck could potentially get stopped to meet quotas because the borough is only one square mile.
“We need the police department,” Sanders said. “It’s just right now, we feel intimidated by it.”
The Mercersburg Borough Council has tasked a committee with looking at the inspections issue, Zeger said.
Chamber Executive Director Mary-Anne Gordon asked Zechman to stop the inspections while the committee does its work. He declined.
Business people aired other grievances, including claims that officers wait outside establishments that serve alcohol and target their customers. Zechman asked them to fill out forms for him with those complaints.
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