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From $1M to under $100K: North Codorus looking at much less to leave Southwestern Police

Southwestern Regional Police Department in Heidelberg Township, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

North Codorus Township could pay significantly less to leave the Southwestern Regional Police Department than the approximately $1 million previously suggested.

For months now, department representatives have maintained the township's exit could carry that hefty price tag, but that was assuming next year's police budget would be for 14 officers, according to Walter Tilley, the police board's solicitor.

On Wednesday, Aug. 14, the board passed a six-officer budget to present to the remaining municipalities for approval. All municipalities have to approve the budget for it to pass. If no budget is approved for next year, the budget will revert back to the last approved one, which was in 2017. 

Tilley said the articles of agreement for the regional department state that a departing municipality is responsible for any cost increases that the remaining municipalities will have the next budget year.

Under the budget that was passed for municipal approval, North Codorus Township would be on the hook for $83,884.93 next year.

The budget that was approved to be disseminated to the municipalities included a total of about $1.14 million. It was one of three considered during the board's meeting Wednesday.

Sgt. Jamie Stalcup, the department's officer in charge, prepared two budgets for the board. One would comply with the officers' collective bargaining agreement with 11 officers, which would require two additional hires. The other would require a change in the agreement, to a six-officer force.

A third budget was developed during the meeting itself that would create a nine-officer force.

But some board members said the 11-officer and nine-officer budgets would be too much money for their municipalities.

“As much as I’d like to see different, we just don’t have the money," said Matt Muir, a Manheim Township supervisor who serves on the police board.

Even if the budget is passed by the four municipalities, there would need to be a change in the officers' collective bargaining agreement, Tilley said. The most significant change, he said, would be a change from the officers' mandatory two-officer policy, meaning there must be two officers on duty at all times.

Ed Paskey, the association's attorney, said he has not had an opportunity to look at the budget and its potential impact but that the association would likely discuss it with him soon.

The department is budgeted for 14 officers. Currently, there are eight officers, with one on administrative leave.

The department is operating under a memorandum of understanding with the officers that allows for the hiring of part-time officers until July 2020.

North Codorus Township, which is still a member of the police board, has a vote on the budget for next year despite the fact that it's contracted with Northern York County Regional Police starting Jan. 1.

In October, North Codorus Township officials, citing rising costs among other things, announced their intention to depart from Southwestern by the end of 2019.

The township is responsible for about half of Southwestern's budget, roughly $1 million.

In July, North Codorus Township supervisors voted to join Northern Regional Police as a contracted community. The township will receive about 170 hours of weekly police service for $744,000 per year.

The exit fee for North Codorus Township is still being negotiated.

More:Southwestern Regional Police Board reveals cost-cutting plan to salvage department

More:Southwestern board looks to future without North Codorus Twp.

More:It's official: North Codorus Twp. opts for Northern Regional Police

Northern York County Regional Police Chief Mark Bentzel speaks to Southwestern Regional Police's board during a monthly meeting Wednesday, Aug. 15. Christopher Dornblaser photo.

Other options?: Northern Regional Chief Mark Bentzel and Deputy Chief David Lash spoke to residents and Southwestern Regional board members at Wednesday's meeting about potentially covering the department's remaining territory.

Lash provided board members with an unofficial proposal to cover Southwestern's municipalities.

By Northern Regional's estimates, the department could provide service to Heidelberg Township at 90 hours per week at $393,897, which would be more expensive than what it paid this year and include fewer hours.

Heidelberg Township received 96 hours for $382,652 this year.

Northern Regional estimated it could provide Manheim Township 60 service hours per week at $262,598 annually, compared with the 85 hours it received from Southwestern this year at $340,165.

For Spring Grove, Northern Regional estimated it could cover the borough at 90 hours per week at $393,897, compared with the 86 hours it receives from Southwestern at $352,564.

When asked by a resident what would happen to Southwestern's current officers should Northern Regional provide coverage, Bentzel said it's something the department's been through before.

In the past, anyone who is a current employee is asked to fill out an application, which is slightly different from a new application process, according to the chief.  

"In the past any police officer from another police department that came to us ... we did not find any reason to, with those that we dealt with in the past, to exclude anyone," he said.

While the board just received the Northern Regional information Wednesday, some board members have been looking into a potential merger with Southern Regional Police.

The board asked Stalcup to send a letter to the Department of Community and Economic Development to conduct a feasibility study on potentially consolidating the two regional departments' resources.

Southern Regional Police covers Shrewsbury borough, Glen Rock, Stewartstown and New Freedom.

Matt Bollinger, Southwestern's police board chairman and a Heidelberg Township supervisor, said he didn't have a feeling on either Northern or Southern departments yet. He's waiting to hear what his constituents think and is also waiting on all facts to be presented to him.

“We can’t make decisions unless we have all the facts," he said.

The Southwestern Regional Police board has a meeting tentatively scheduled for Aug. 28 at the police station at 6115 Thoman Drive in Heidelberg Township.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story had the incorrect date for the next meeting. The York Dispatch regrets the error and the story has been updated.