Police commission talks future without New Freedom
Southern Regional Police officials are still discussing what the future will look like following New Freedom's decision last month to leave the department.
During the police commission meeting Wednesday, Feb. 7, members spoke about what the department will look like, including finances, staffing and where the station will be located.
The commission is made up of officials from each member municipality — Glen Rock, New Freedom, Shrewsbury and Stewartstown.
Last month, New Freedom officials announced that the borough will be leaving the department at the end of the year, leaving Shrewsbury, Glen Rock and Stewartstown as the three full-time member municipalities for the regional department.
Future: Stewartstown Mayor Robert Herzberger, vice-chairman of the commission, asked Chief Jim Boddington to provide an idea of what the department will look like, financially, without New Freedom's money coming in.
Herzberger asked Boddington to provide that information to the commission by the start of next month.
“We have a limited amount of time to figure out exactly how to handle this situation," Herzberger said.
During the meeting, officials talked about potentially selling police vehicles. In light of New Freedom's decision to leave, Glen Rock Mayor John Trout, commission chairman, said it might be worth waiting on making that decision until more information about the future of the department is available.
A future without New Freedom also could affect the number of officers on the force.
"I have to say that if we're not doing the same amount of territories, there's going to have to be some adjustments made — and that's hard for all of us," Trout said.
After the meeting, Boddington said funding of the department will factor into how many officers will remain. He said it is possible the three remaining municipalities could be willing to pay to keep the remaining officers but not look to replace a certain number of officers should they leave the department.
The amount of money the department receives from municipalities that have part-time coverage, such as Railroad or Winterstown, or from Southern York County School District, which the department covers, could factor into that as well, he said. The department is currently made up of 12 officers.
Solicitor Peter Ruth said that the commission is working on a separation agreement for New Freedom to figure out the financial impact of the borough's departure.
The commission is obligated to have the agreement completed by July 1, Ruth said.
"Unless there is a change in circumstances, we'll be actively working on that up and through July 1st," he said.
Station: New Freedom's leaving will boot the police station out of its location in the New Freedom borough offices at 49 E. High St. by the end of the year.
The best option, the commission said, is to move the department to its Stewartstown substation.
Currently, the department makes use of the first floor of a building at 6 N. Main St. in Stewartstown.
"I think it can only handle half of the staff," said Roy Burkins, Stewartstown Borough Council and police commission member.
The second floor is being used by an accountant, but if the accountant vacated, it would be enough room to house the department, commission members said.
"It's fully functional," Boddington said.
Leaving: New Freedom resident Doug Brent, who organized a Facebook page dedicated to keeping the department in the borough, questioned the decision. He asked if the commission was working to reverse the decision.
Ruth said the decision to leave came solely from New Freedom.
"(The commission) remains committed to hopefully finding common ground, if that exists," he said.
Donnie Miller, also of New Freedom, asked someone from the borough to explain the reasoning behind the decision.
“We think moving in the right direction is to get to a larger department with a better financial foundation," New Freedom council member and alternate commission member Bruce Merrill said.
Miller told New Freedom commission members that he's talked with many residents and he doesn't think money is the issue. Miller said the borough is supposed to be building the police department.
"i don't think you're building it by separately taking one town out of an organization and separately going off on your own," he said.
Larry O'Brien, New Freedom council and police commission member, said the borough is interested in merging Southern Regional Police with another department, but that would require a unanimous decision from all boroughs.
"It's very difficult to get all four municipalities on the same page," he said.
Last year, New Freedom and Glen Rock submitted letters of intent to leave the department by the end of 2017, citing funding issues.
Both boroughs were concerned about how the department was funded, and after bringing in a consultant to examine the funding, the boroughs then agreed to try a new method called "Police Protection Units," or PPUs. That method allows municipalities to purchase service hours, which the chief would allocate appropriately.
All of the full-member municipalities agreed to remain with the department through the end of 2018 to see how the new formula worked out.
Effort: Brent organized the Facebook page shortly after New Freedom announced its decision to leave last month.
In the few weeks since its inception, the page has gathered nearly 200 likes.
Brent said he wasn't that active in the community, but when he saw last month's York Dispatch article detailing New Freedom's decision, he decided to create the page and get involved.
"Most people that I talk to aren't even aware of what's going on," he said.
Brent said he would love for Southern Regional Police to stay or to grow with another department. He would like to see the same personnel remain in New Freedom.
He said New Freedom has expressed concern over the funding of the department, but now the council is saying there is an issue with the size of the department.
"Their story keeps changing," Brent said.
Brent also has given out signs saying "Keep Southern Regional Police in New Freedom." A number of signs line the first block of South Constitution Avenue, near the borough office and police department.
Brent estimated he gave out about 70 signs.
He's expecting a large group of people from the Facebook page to voice their disagreement with the decision during New Freedom's next borough council meeting Monday, Feb. 12.
During Wednesday's meeting, Merrill encouraged those in attendance to go to the council meeting to find out more regarding New Freedom's decision.
Miller, who is also part of Brent's group, urged residents of all four municipalities to attend.
The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday at 49 E. High St.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at email@example.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.