Alot of words have been printed the last few weeks about the West York Police Department and regionalization. It has left most folks confused.
Scandal was the word, when proposals were shredded at a recent meeting. However the fact is no law was broken. You can call it theatrical, but scandalous certainly not. The scandal is elected officials have over inflated West York's proposed police budget in 2013 and the cost of the 2008 contract to fuel their outsourcing plan.
Scandalous is the misuse of taxpayer funds to go on a union-busting scheme. West York has put other agencies through needless proposals of regionalization prior to the 2013 debacle. West York led by Sam Firestone, Steve Herman and Nancy Laird cost the taxpayer dearly in 2006 and in 2007.
They incurred additional legal fees to bust the union contract. They outsourced inspection services, against the public's wishes. The result was a higher cost to the customer.
It's been said that discarding the resent proposals is a waste of resources. I disagree; the waste of time was getting bids without negotiating first in good faith with West York Police Department before looking at outsourcing.
West York needs to fire the flip-flopping elected officials. Mayor Firestone is one of them. He rails against any given proposal but refused to cast a tie-breaking vote so he can later say he was either "for it or against it" dependant on the audience. The mayor has a record of not being able to make a decision. He couldn't even decide which office to run for in the upcoming 2013 election. He is skilled in the art of sabotage and smoke and mirrors.
Laird voted for the 2008 police contract but now supports outsourcing. The mayor, Herman and Laird were against the whole idea of regionalization at one point in 2007 publicly, but privately for it. They were against studying it in 2008 and 2009. Now suddenly they are for it, and if you believe Laird she is not sure where she stands today.
Shane Louthian's depiction of the 2008 contract is a complete falsehood. We worked to replace a contract prior to 2008 that did not honor the uniformed officers or the taxpayer. That contract did not do enough to ensure protection of the residents. Yes, we increased salaries in 2008 but also eliminated costly provisions. We raised salaries because the department was one of the lowest paid and we were looking to attract quality officers.
Prior to 2008, pension provisions were deemed illegal and we needed to act. West York had less than two-man coverage in 2007 -- a dangerous policy. We required two-man coverage because residents wanted better response times and better service. I also wanted to ensure the officers were safe. Domestic violence calls and traffic stops require two units in today's world.
That isn't always enough to prevent fallen or injured officers. I remember a February 2009 call with officers down. It made my heart sink. I was grateful we had two units and additional back up that night. Thank God we did not have the coverage we did in 2007.
Rolling back and shrinking coverage is irresponsible and dangerous. West York Police had record revenue after the 2008 contract to help pay for the cost of the department. We also saw record morale and efficiency. Prior in 2007, West York was paying large costs to fix cars, skyrocketing healthcare cost and huge comp time payouts. The cost of repairs outpaced the cost of a new car. Further, the old cars just were not reliable. We reduced the cost of healthcare and provided better coverage for the employee. We also ensured officers did not have to wear outdated gear or do without the protection they deserve. It was dishonorable that council allowed expired-bullet-proof vests to be used or for evidence to go without proper protection.
There are commonsense solutions to maintain the current West York Police Department and the borough. Moving to accept either proposed contract with Northern York County Regional or York City is not the answer. It does not include the cost of dissolving the current contract and police force and pension. It would cost the borough a half a million dollars additionally. Further, a salary would be needed to cover parking enforcement in the cheapest proposal in addition to the half million.
Small regional departments don't work and a county department would be the solution with a state-run pension. West York, if you are worried about budgets and taxes, stop delaying infrastructure improvements and investment in West York. It fuels your economy. It attracts new families and business and that adds to your tax base.
However, a sure killer to progressive growth is the mess you are creating for everyone to read about.
-- Joppa, Md. Resident Shawn C. Mauck is a former West York Borough Council president.