There isn't much major crime in Wellsville.
Partly because of that, the borough with 242 residents is content with the service it receives from Pennsylvania State Police, said Mayor Andrew Slothower.
But there's a bill in the House that aims to get municipalities to switch from relying on state police for protection to local police.
The other option: Pay up for state police.
Under the proposal, municipalities that don't have their own department or contract from local police would be charged $52 per resident the first year, $104 per resident the second year and $156 the third and each subsequent year.
For Wellsville, that would mean a bill of $12,584 the first year, $25,168 the second and $37,752 the third.
"Obviously it's going to hurt the small municipalities," Slothower said.
The proposal: State Rep. Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, introduced the bill. He said 21 percent of Pennsylvania residents live in municipalities that rely on state police as their main means of police protection.
That means the remaining 79 percent of Pennsylvanians pay for a service they don't rely on, at least not on a daily basis, he said.
"I'd like someone to pay the mortgage on my house, but it doesn't work that way," Sturla said.
According to the bill, fees collected would used to fund state police operations. Some distressed municipalities would be exempt from paying the fees.
If a municipality didn't pay up, it would not receive funding from the state.
Slothower said he understands what prompted the bill.
But if municipalities are charged, he'd rather see the fees based on the number of incidents state police respond to in affected municipalities rather than population.
Some municipalities that rely on state police for part-time protection would also be billed. They'd face fees of $17 per resident the first year, $34 the second and $52 the third.
Similar bills were introduced in the past; none were passed into law.
In March, Sturla's bill was referred to the judiciary committee, where it remains.
Affected municipalities: The bill could potentially affect 24 York County municipalities.
That includes municipalities as large as Shrewsbury Township, with 6,447 residents, and as small as Yorkana, with just 229 residents.
It also includes Loganville, with a population of 1,240 and home to the state police barracks in York County.
And it includes municipalities that have evaluated - and rejected - the possibility of joining a regional police department or contracting from other departments for police coverage.
If the bill is approved, it would almost certainly mean tax increases for affected municipalities, said municipal officials, many of whom said they are against the bill.
Tax increase? Ronald Tombesi, president of the Loganville borough council, said the borough would have to raise taxes to cover the costs for state police. But the borough wouldn't be able to "raise taxes quick enough" to cover the fee, he added.
Loganville recently hired Southern Regional Police on a part-time basis to help curb the costs proposed in the bill.
Under the rate set in the bill, Loganville would have had to pay $64,480 the first year, $128,960 the second and $193,440 the year for full-time state police service.
"I think it's a bunch of crap," Tombesi said. "What exactly are we going to get for our money?"
There is little crime in Loganville, and crime that does occur is mainly minor, he said.
Tombesi said if the borough is to be charged, then state police should have to start enforcing local ordinances.
Trooper Tom Pinkerton, state police spokesman, said the department opts not to enforce local ordinances because it's too difficult to keep up with changes in each municipality.
State police already have to keep abreast with changes in state laws. And troopers are transferred between barracks, making it even more difficult to keep up with local ordinances.
Hiring police: The agreement between Loganville and Southern Regional was approved by borough officials last week. Southern Regional serves the boroughs of Glen Rock, New Freedom, Railroad and Shrewsbury and the Southern York County School District.
Loganville will receive an average of five hours of service a week at the rate of $65.31 an hour, which equals to roughly $8,000 for the remainder of the year, Tombesi said.
Service is expected to begin almost immediately. If everything goes well, the agreement could be extended.
State police will still be the primary police provider in Loganville, but Southern Regional will be able to enforce local ordinances, said Jeff Joy, chairman of the regional police commission.
Under the bill, municipalities with part-time police service would need a certain number of hours of weekly service, depending on population, in order not to be charged a fee.
With a population of 1,240, that means, even with a part-time service, Loganville would still be charged for state police service and would have to pay $64,480 by the third year.
It's not likely Wrightsville, which receives part-time service from its own police department and service from state police, would have to pay a fee if the bill passes, said Mayor Neil Habecker. If it does pass the borough could seize the opportunity and contract out its police services to surrounding municipalities, he said.
Willing to pay: David Wisnom, chairman of the Hopewell Township board of supervisors, said he understands why there's a proposal to charge for state police service.
In fact, he'd be willing to pay the $52 per resident fee. The yearly fee increase, however, would likely be too much for the township to bear, he said.
"It would be a cost thing for us," Wisnom said.Officials in Hopewell have looked into contracting a local police department for service, but that would cost the township around $1 million a year, Wisnom said.
With a population of 5,435, Hopewell could face a yearly fee of $847,860 for state police come the third year under the bill.
Slothower said Wellsville officials looked into contracting services about six years ago. As in Hopewell, cost was the big issue.
Eight to 12 hours of weekly service would have cost the town about $30,000, Slothower said. That's about 25 percent of the borough's annual budget, he said.
In Shrewsbury Township, officials have discussed the possibility of contracting service from a local department.
Paul Solomon, a township supervisor, said one idea is to form districts that include, for example, housing developments where residents who want a local police service live. A local department would be contracted to provide service to that district with residents footing the bill, he said.
On the whole, Solomon said many of the township's residents are happy how things are now.
"A lot of citizens think they don't need or want (local) police protection," he said.
With a population of 6,447, Shrewsbury Township could face a fee of more than $1 million by the third year under the bill.
Supervisor Ed Hughes said he sees no reason why the township should pay for state police since it is likely cheaper to receive service from a local department.
Regional police: Peach Bottom Township looked into creating a regional department with surrounding municipalities about three years, but doing so would have been too costly, said John Johnson, a Peach Bottom supervisor.
Like most municipalities that would be affected by the proposed bill, Peach Bottom is rural with little crime, and the cost for a local department outweighs the need for a local police service, Johnson said.
The township faces fees of $250,276 the first year, [mfr: doesn't agree with graphic: ]$550,552 the second year and $750,828 the third year for state police services
"It's easy to see why we're not really in favor of it," Johnson said.
Population limits? A number of municipalities that could be affected by the bill are in State Rep. Stan Saylor's, R-Windsor Township, district.
He said municipalities with a population of 10,000 or more should be required to have a local department or be part of a regional one. But he's not in favor of forcing smaller ones to pay for state police services.
"No, I don't agree with that," he said.The yearly fee increase in the bill is meant to wean municipalities off of relying on state police as the only means of police protection, Sturla said.
With fewer municipalities to police, state police would be able to put more of a focus on patrolling highways and investigating major crime.
That's what troopers are trained for and are meant to be doing, Sturla said.
"It's also about smarter policing," he said.
The bill in brief
Each municipality that receives Pennsylvania State Police full-time patrol services would pay a fee for service if it meets the following criteria:
-- Does not provide its own local full-time patrol services.
-- Does not participate in a regional police force for local full-time patrol services.
-- Does not contract with another municipality for local full-time patrol services.
If the criteria are met, a municipality would have to adhere to the following fee schedule:
-- $52 per resident the first year.
-- $104 per resident the second year.
-- $156 per resident the third and each subsequent year.
Part-time fees could apply to other muncipalities under the proposal. These municipalities would be exempt from paying the part-time fee:
-- Municipalities with a population of 1,000 or less that provide or contract services for at least 40 hours per week.
-- Municipalities with a population of over 1,000 but less than 3,500 that provide or contract services for at least 80 hours per week.
-- Municipalities that provide or contract services of an additional 40 hours per week over the 80 hours per week for each 2,500 in population the municipality that has a population over 3,500.
A municipality that donesn't meets the criteria would pay the following fees:
-- $17 per resident the first year.
-- $34 per resident the second year.
-- $52 per resident the third and each subsequent year.
Source: Pennsylvania House Bill 1228.
- Reach Greg Gross at 505-5434 or firstname.lastname@example.org.