May 20—The days of North Huntingdon police serving as mail carriers for the seven commissioners are over — a decision prompted by Tuesday's arrest of an armed murder suspect walking down busy Route 30.
Commissioners this week unanimously voted to stop the 30-year practice of having officers deliver township-related mail that arrives for them at the North Huntingdon Town House on Center Highway to their private residences.
Commissioner Ronald Zona, a retired state police trooper, raised the issue by saying that he no longer wanted police to be responsible for spending their time driving that mail from the Town House to his home, which may happen twice a month. If he is not home, then they have to make another trip, Zona said.
"As we just saw with the police department, a serious incident can happen at any time, any day of the week," Zona said.
On Tuesday afternoon, police scrambled to respond when a man was walking along Route 30 near North Thompson Lane, carrying a rifle. Later identified as Victor F. Steban, 53, he is under investigation for multiple crimes, including the murder of two people in Penn Township.
Officers have told Zona that they are concerned about performing mail delivery, he said. He suggested contacting him by email when there is mail for him at the Town House, and he will pick it up.
"It takes them off he road, even if it is for a minute or two. I mean, something can happen that quick that their services are needed elsewhere," Zona said.
Chief Robert Rizzo said that his officers will appreciate that gesture.
"It's always been a detail that has not been cherished by the officers," Rizzo said.
Police officers were delivering mail to commissioners when he started on the police force some 30 years ago, Rizzo said after the meeting.
Former commissioner Richard Gray, the apparent winner in Tuesday's primary of the Republican nomination for commissioner in the Fourth Ward, said "it should have been done a long time ago."
Rizzo commended his officers and the cooperation exhibited among the local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in the investigation leading to Steban's arrest. The probe included a fire at Steban's home on North Thompson Lane, the firebombing of a vehicle on Clay Pike, the murder of two people in Penn Township and gunshots fired at three homes in Hempfield and Sewickley townships.
"The amount of hours that went into this case over the four days is staggering," Rizzo said.
Rizzo also commended officers involved in the arrest of Steban as he was carrying a rifle along Route 30 in Hempfield and North Huntingdon.
"Our officers were putting their lives on the line. ... They (officers) were throwing themselves into harm's way," Rizzo said.
Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, email@example.com or via Twitter .