Published Tuesday, August 11, 1998
County, Mercer may bill Klan
By Jennifer Hall
Herald Staff Writer
Mercer County officials plan to bill the Ku Klux Klan for the money it cost to stage the group’s rally Saturday.
While only about 30 members of the American Knights Realm of Pennsylvania and about 200 onlookers came to rally on the Mercer County Courthouse steps, it still cost about $14,000 for the group to be there.
“We do provide services such as electric to other groups but not security,” said County Commissioner Chairman Dick Stevenson. “And security is required for this group.
The history of the group and the tone of its beliefs necessitated security, he said. The county spent about $4,000 while Mercer Police Chief Frank Detelich estimated the borough spent about $10,000.
“They try to incite people with their speech,” Stevenson said. “It would be foolhardy to not have security there, so the cost is much higher.”
Members of the county’s sheriff’s department and maintenance crews all were paid overtime to work at the rally. The maintenance department needed to set up and tear down for the rally, while the county purchased riot helmets for the sheriff’s men.
Detelich said he will be asking council to bill the Klan.
“Some people think you just come in and set up fences and detours,” he said about the preparations that had police and street department workers on the job up to six hours before the 11 a.m. rally.
“We had to check bushes, sweep the area for stones and little explosive devices,” Detelich said. “Between wages and equipment and everything else, they (the Klan) should pay their fair share.”
Stevenson said the county commissioners may ask the Klan to pay just a percentage of the costs. Detelich said he thinks the issue will come before borough council next month.
State Sen. Robert D. Robbins, R-50th District, told commissioners he is looking for a way to offset the expenses so the rally will not impact on the county’s budget, Stevenson said.
Trooper Robert Lagoon, the state police community services officer, said the 60 troopers at the courthouse were working scheduled shifts so the state did not incur any overtime costs.
Keith T. Smith, president of the Mercer County Chapter of the NAACP, said the group has received more than $2,000 in donations. The donations from The Rally in the Valley were not totaled as of Monday afternoon.
“Actually we still have people calling and wishing to make donations,” he said.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People chapter had said it wanted the money to go to cultural diversity clubs in about five school districts, but Smith said he is also going to talk to the group about giving the money to other organizations such as the Mercer County United Way.
“I want to make sure that this money has a wide reaching effect,” he said. “We may also look at a number of organizations that are not United Way funded.”
The Rev. Martha Sanders, who is chairing the newly established county Task Force on Race Relations, said people are talking about having a unity rally each year.
“If people support it there’s nothing wrong with having it,” said the pastor of the Hour of Power Full Gospel Tabernacle Inc.
Mrs. Sanders said the task force will meet for the first time Thursday to make recommendations to the commissioners on permanent members and outline the duties for the group.
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Updated August 11, 1998
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