After heated debate, Hallam council OKs new pitch for police service deal
After more than two hours of heated debate Monday night, the Hallam Borough Council voted to present a new proposal to Hellam Township for a police contract that has divided the council for months.
Hellam Township has sought a contract that would increase the borough's payment to more than $404,000 by 2022, a roughly 65% increase. Hallam officials rejected that proposal in August, raising the possibility that the borough would instead be covered by state police.
But on Monday night, the Hallam council voted 5-2 to counteroffer with a three-year deal that would include an annual 5% increase. If adopted, Hallam would pay Hellam $282,600 in 2022 for police coverage.
"We say a prayer at the beginning of this borough council meeting ... the very last sentence in that prayer says we need to make the decision rendered on the most people concerned," said Councilwoman Melody Stine. "So while you may not agree with them ... these are the people concerned. So you have to listen to them."
The roughly 35 residents in attendance at Monday's Hallam council meeting were overwhelmingly in support of doing what's necessary to keep Hellam Police coverage.
"It's to get us the best price possible for what we want, and what we want is the Hellam Township Police Department," Hallam resident Matthew Flinchbaugh said. "Any borough council member who votes against our protection, (residents) may write me in for borough council this year."
On Tuesday, Flinchbaugh officially announced on his Facebook page that he would be running as a write-in candidate for the Hallam Borough Council.
Hallam’s existing contract with the Hellam Township Police Department expires Dec. 31, and the two sides must reach a deal before then to continue service.
In 2018, Wrightsville Borough unanimously worked out a deal with Hellam Township for police services. Officials said Wrightsville residents were expected to save $85,000 in police services.
If Hallam were to accept Hellam's offer, a hefty tax increase would be required to cover the cost, though officials said Tuesday that the exact amount of new taxes needed haven't been calculated.
Several borough council members griped Monday night that Hallam needs to see a detailed breakdown about the types of crimes police are responding to in order to better understand what taxpayers are paying for.
"There is no reason you cannot give me all the part one, part two crimes," said Councilman Mike Dupler, speaking about the number of serious versus non-serious calls. "I don't want to know what the crimes are; I just want to know the amount."
Flinchbaugh said Hellam police are always the first on the scene, especially in a health emergency where "time is of the essence," and that state police could take up to 45 minutes.
Other residents brought up questions about whether the borough would see an increase in crime if state police patrolled instead of the Hellam Police Department.
Hallam Borough Council President William Fitzpatrick said Monday night's crowd was not representative of the roughly 2,700 residents who live in Hallam. Some, he said, might be in support of coverage from an "alternative police force," such as state police.
"The numbers we have here represent less than one half of 1% of this voting population," Fitzpatrick said.
Stine and fellow council member Samantha Fullam fired back, asking to see the letters of residents who shared those sentiments, to which Fitzpatrick replied, "They don't have to, they don't have to do anything."
"You're the ones here trying to keep the status quo, and their absences speaks volumes. Where are they, and where are yours? You have 25 people here," Fitzpatrick said, while arguing that Monday night's turnout didn't mean a majority of Hallam residents were willing to pay more to keep coverage from Hellam Police.
A tally of people who signed in at Monday's meeting totaled around 35, according to officials.
In attendance was Galen Weibley, the chairman of the Hellam Township Board of Supervisors, who stood on the front porch outside the meeting. Weibley declined to comment when asked if he would support Hallam's counteroffer.
"They're having good, productive discussions on their council on what direction they want to see their municipality and community go toward," he said. "This is part of the democratic process."
Weibley said the township could review and discuss the proposal at its meeting on Thursday, Oct. 17.
"You're paying for a secure service," said Hellam Police Chief Douglas Pollock. "You want to call 911 and pick up the phone and have the police in your house in five minutes or less, we're your people."
— Reach Tina Locurto at email@example.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.