West York will keep its police department after the council narrowly voted Monday night to discard unopened proposals from two departments to provide police service to the borough.
One of the council members, Dawn Shue, was not present at the meeting and cast her vote over the phone, making the vote total 4-3.
The vote came after council members heard nearly two hours of public comment, which was testy at times, from residents, nearly all of whom supported keeping the department.
Some of the residents sported pins supporting the department.
It also came after the vote was tied 3-3 and Mayor Sam Firestone said he would not cast the deciding vote. In Pennsylvania, mayors can vote in order to break a tie.
During a recess from the meeting, Firestone said he wouldn't cast a vote because the council could override his vote with all members present.
"It's not a mayor's decision," he said. "It's a council decision.
Not voting: Firestone's decision not to vote brought ire from residents who packed the Reliance Fire Company's social hall. The meeting was held at the fire station because of the number of people in attendance.
At one point, Firestone called out Shue's phone number over the jeering crowd. The meeting was recessed for a short time as solicitor Mieke Driscoll looked into whether Firestone was required by state law to cast a vote.
Shue was able to cast her vote after councilwoman Shelly Metzler called her on the phone.
Shue is about to leave the council because she is in the process of moving to West Virginia, where she was Monday night. She said that she stays in her borough home three to four nights a week.
At the start of the meeting, council president Steve Herman said Shue has alerted the council that she is moving and will resign. However, he added that Shue had not yet submitted a letter of resignation.
Vote: Council members Brian Wilson, Annette "Chickie" Christine, and Metzler joined Shue in voting to discard the proposals. Herman, Shane Louthian, and Nancy Laird voted to keep the proposals.
By the same margin, the council voted to shred the two proposals from York City and Northern York County Regional police departments.
A resident had to call Shue to get her vote on that matter.
In early February, the council voted to send requests for police service costs through the end of the year to five area departments.
Of those five, only York City and Northern York County Regional returned proposals. West Manchester Township, Spring Garden Township and York Area Regional police departments did not.
Louthian said one of the reasons the council sought the proposals was the cost of the borough department.
The proposals were not opened during the meeting and will now be shredded at the borough office without seeing the light of day.
Residents speak: All but one of the residents who spoke during the meeting said they want to keep the department, some adding even if that means paying a little more in taxes.
"I'm willing to pay a little more for the protection we have," said Mary Wagner.
Mike Stantzos, owner of Crazy Tomato, which that has a location at 1738 Filbert St., asked residents to raise their hands if they wanted to keep local police.
Nearly all in the audience raised their hands.
He then asked those who wanted to have an outside department to protect the borough to raise their hands. Only two members of the audience did so.
"I'm not a mathematician, but I'm assuming the majority of people want to keep the police department," Stantzos said.
He also urged the council to heed the will of the residents at the meeting.
"We hired you by voting you in and we will fire you by holding a special election to remove you," Stantzos said.
Tim Berkheimer, one of the two residents to raise their hands in favor of hiring an outside department, said if residents want lower taxes, they should get rid of the department.
"Bring taxes down ... police needs to merge," he said. "West York needs to get the hell out of the way."
- Reach Greg Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org.