Glen Rock mulls leaving Southern Regional Police
Glen Rock's borough council will vote soon on whether it wants to leave the Southern Regional Police Department, a possibility that, should it come to pass, could be one of several changes to the way southern York County is policed, officials say.
The council will hold a town hall meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28, at the Glen Rock Hose & Ladder fire station, 15-17 Hanover St.; immediately after that, the borough council will vote on whether to send the Southern Regional Police commission a letter signaling the borough's intention to pull out of the intermunicipal agreement that forms Southern Regional, according to Glen Rock borough Councilman Gene Delahanty. If the borough does decide to leave, the withdrawal would not be effective until Jan. 1, 2017.
One main reason why some of the borough officials wish to turn elsewhere is money. Yearly payments from the borough of about 2,000 people to Southern Regional are closing in on $250,000, an amount that's more than a third of the borough's budget, Delahanty said.
Right now, the borough levies 3.55 mills in property taxes, which means that the owner of a house evaluated at $100,000 has to pay the borough $355 per year, on top of the county and school district property taxes. That amount is neither uncommonly high nor unusually low among York County boroughs.
Delahanty, who used to serve on the department's police commission, isn't sure how the vote's going to go — he thinks two of the seven council members are firmly in favor of staying with the department, two want to leave and the other three are up in the air.
The Southern Regional Police Department covers several of the boroughs in the southern part of the county: Glen Rock, Stewartstown, New Freedom and Shrewsbury are the four full-member municipalities, and the department also contracts part-time services to Winterstown and Railroad. Fourteen full-time officers, one part-time officer and Chief James Boddington make up the department, which also provides services to Southern and South Eastern school districts and has a budget of close to $2 million.
Manpower: That somewhat wide-ranging area contributes to the other reason Delahanty had for wanting to withdraw from the department: He says he doesn't believe Southern Regional has enough officers to adequately patrol the area the department covers.
"Not enough manpower," he said, though he said the officers the department does have do a great job. "Not enough people."
Jeff Halapin, vice chairman of the police commission and mayor of New Freedom, said he's never heard that complaint about the department before.
"I would totally disagree with that. ... We're staffed adequately," said Halapin, using, as he did repeatedly, the first-person plural pronoun "we" to refer to the police department.
Halapin said Glen Rock's departure wouldn't mean Southern Regional couldn't function anymore, but it could spell trouble down the road, a thought he said he'd recently brought up to the Southern Regional Police chief.
"It's gonna be like dominoes, right?" he said.
He said it's likely the 23-year-old regional department would have to cut staff; all told, he said, each officer costs the department about $108,000 per year, so Glen Rock's $250,000-or-so walking out the door is the equivalent of about two officers. But even then, costs would probably rise more quickly for the remaining departments, which could make other municipalities also look for a way out.
"If Glen Rock does their thing and sends in their letter, I think New Freedom would have some interest in shopping around," the mayor said. New Freedom has done that before, as Glen Rock has, before ultimately staying with Southern Regional, he said.
New Freedom levies 1.50 mills in municipal property taxes, so the owner of a $100,000 house there has to pay the borough $150 per year.
Boddington, the chief, did not answer voicemails seeking comment; neither did Glen Rock Mayor John Trout, who also serves as chairman of the Southern Regional Police commission, nor council president Richard Shiles.
If Glen Rock were to leave Southern Regional, it would have a few options on the table.
The borough could turn to state police, which would cover the area free of charge, as they do many other municipalities in York County and around the state.
Or Glen Rock could contract part-time services from Southern Regional or nearby Southwestern Regional Police, with state police making up the rest of the time. Or it could seek to become a full-time member of Southwestern Regional.
Southwestern: Southwestern Regional Police Chief Greg Bean said Glen Rock and the Southwestern police commission had been in contact. The department sent out letters to several nearby municipalities within the past couple of months, as it's looking at the possibility of expanding its coverage area, he said.
"Sharing police services is a good idea," he said.
Bean said regionalization allows municipalities to reduce costs and provide better, more professional services than those that come from most municipal departments, which are often "costly and ineffective."
The chief said the department did not send a letter to Glen Rock but that Glen Rock heard about the fact they were looking to expand and expressed its interest. At least one other municipality also has expressed some interest, Bean said, but he declined to say which one or ones; he said any talks were in the very preliminary stages, and wouldn't — and shouldn't — move too quickly.
"We very much like the idea that this topic is out there," he said of the fact that places are considering joining his department.
Southwestern currently serves the borough of Spring Grove as well as Manheim, Heidelberg and North Codorus townships; the department has 14 officers, including Bean, and a yearly budget of close to $2 million.
He said the board has not given Glen Rock any numbers yet of what full-time or contracted police coverage might cost.
— Reach Sean Cotter at firstname.lastname@example.org.