Southwestern Police's future uncertain as departments pitch coverage plans

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

Southwestern Regional Police Department's survival remains uncertain after another regional department on Thursday offered its remaining municipalities services for just under $1 million.

The offer comes months after North Codorus Township, Southwestern's biggest financial contributor, voted to join Northern York County Regional Police starting in 2020.

Under York Area Regional department's estimates, Heidelberg Township and Spring Grove would pay $371,804 for 80 hours per week each, and Manheim Township would pay $255,615 for 55 hours per week.

Earlier this month, Northern York County Regional Police department pitched a coverage plan to the Southwestern board. 

A move to York Area or Northern York County Regional Police would effectively end Southwestern Regional Police.

However, it appears in both scenarios Southwestern's officers could be retained in some fashion. The department formed in 2002.

Steve Hovis, solicitor for York Area's board, told Southwestern's board during a meeting Thursday, Sept. 26, that joining the department would likely take the form of purchasing services as a contracted member, meaning the municipalities would not have an individual vote on the board. 

Joining as a charter member, which would give the municipality a vote on the board, would require an amendment to the department's charter agreement, he said.

York Area Chief Tim Damon said those costs presented are if all three municipalities contract services, so the numbers could vary.

Damon also said the department could take six of Southwestern's officers, should the three municipalities contract service.

Under York Area service, there would be at least two officers in the area of the three municipalities at all times, Damon said.

Albert Granholm, who is the vice chairman of York Area's board, said the next step would be for the Southwestern municipalities to formally express interest in coverage.

The contracts, he said, would likely be for five years.

"That would probably be a static five years, meaning you're committed to five, you can't back out, due to the financial cost of doing this," he said.

Damon has said York Area could start providing service to the municipalities in January.

Northern Regional Chief Mark Bentzel, who attended the meeting, told the boards that the math for York Area's hours didn't add up.

"I know what we proposed, and I know that that math doesn't add up," he said.

Asked about the hours, Damon told The York Dispatch he is confident in the numbers presented.

Currently, Southwestern, which covers about 70 square miles and serves about 18,000 people, has nine full-time officers and one part-time officer.

York Area Regional, which covers about 58 square miles and serves roughly 54,000 people, has 43 officers.

York Area covers York Township, Windsor Township, Dallastown, Jacobus, Yoe and Felton.

More:Southwestern, York Area police boards to discuss potential coverage

More:York Area Regional open to providing service to Southwestern municipalities

York Area Regional Police's board met with Southwestern's to discuss possible coverage during a meeting Thursday, Sept. 26. Christopher Dornblaser photo.

Other option: Northern Regional Police have already offered to provide service to Southwestern's remaining 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.

Representatives from both Northern Regional and York Area Regional Police are expected to present information to Heidelberg Township at the next supervisor's meeting Wednesday, Oct. 2.

The meeting will be held at  7 p.m. at the township building, 6424 York Road.

Township supervisor Matt Bollinger said he asked both departments to attend the meeting.

"I want the residents to basically talk with them," he said.

The Southwestern Regional Police board has a meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 9 at the police station, 6115 Thoman Drive in Heidelberg Township.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.