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Two York County regional police chiefs say it would be a boon to taxpayers in the communities already serviced by their departments if they secured contracts with what's left of Southwestern Regional Police Department.

The competing chiefs of Northern York Regional and York Area Regional police departments also contend that their departments are best positioned to provide service to Heidelberg Township and Spring Grove. 

“We have a strong presence in that Spring Grove area," Northern Deputy Chief David Lash said.

York Area Regional Chief Tim Damon said he believes his department has been providing good police service to its residents and it should be able to provide that same service to Heidelberg Township and Spring Grove, and he wants to bring Southwestern's officers to York Area.

“We think that bringing on some of those officers and incorporating them into our community gives us an opportunity to provide a good service," he said.

So far, boards in Manheim and North Codorus townships have voted to join Northern Regional in 2020. 

Southwestern's erosion started this year after the board for its biggest financial contributor, North Codorus, voted to join Northern York County Regional Police in 2020.

Southwestern officials are looking at dissolving the department by year's end, and officials with both Spring Grove and Heidelberg Township are expected to make a decision by then as well.

In both instances, the chiefs said, costs to existing members of Northern and York Area would benefit from the addition of two municipalities.  

Should Northern Regional get the two other municipalities, the department's budget would jump 19.7% to just over $11 million, according to Lash.

However, he added that the municipalities Northern serves would pay about 1% less than they did in 2019 because fixed costs of the department would be spread among 12 municipalities instead of eight.

The department would  have 64 officers covering 12 York County municipalities. It currently has 54.

York Area's budget would be about $9.7 million should the municipalities join the department, said Chief Tim Damon. That's about a 9% increase over 2019.

He estimated the six current municipalities could see about a 3% decrease in costs should Spring Grove and Heidelberg Township join. 

The York Area chief said the department would have to hire four more officers should it cover the two municipalities. It currently has 43.

A York Dispatch analysis of York County regional departments' budgets between 2008 and 2018 showed York Area and Northern Regional had overall budget increases of about 24% and about 59%, respectively.

But Lash said that looking at overall budgets isn't a good comparison because it is not representative of what the cost increases would be for the individual municipalities. 

Municipalities' officials can choose to increase or decrease their police service hours, which can increase overall budget costs.

For instance, Lash said the department added six officers to accommodate extra hours — resulting in higher overall budget costs.

For example, overall cost for Paradise Township, which received the same number of hours of service in 2008 and 2018, increased about 50% over that 10-year period. 

Lash attributed pension costs rising from the stock market crash and increases in health care costs as some of the reasons behind the 50% jump. 

“That first five years of the period you studied were difficult for all police agencies,” Lash said of the Dispatch analysis. 

Lash said costs for health care and pension have since stabilized, resulting in an average budget increase of about 1.9% between 2016 and 2020.

Windsor Township, which received the same service from York Area in 2008 and 2018, saw a cost increase of about 48%.

Damon attributed the cost increase to pension costs, insurance and salaries.

“It’s those three things all the time," he said.

Between 2008 and what is budgeted for 2020, York Area saw an average annual budget budget increase of about 3.5%, according to Damon. 

For those same years, Northern's budget increased an average of about 3.6%, Lash said.

York Area Regional provides service to about 52,000 people and covers a roughly 58-square-mile area across York Township, Windsor Township, Dallastown, Jacobus, Yoe and Felton. 

Under York Area Regional department's estimates, Heidelberg Township and Spring Grove would pay $372,000 for 80 hours per week each.

Northern Regional serves roughly 70,000 residents and covers 150 square miles in Dover borough, Dover Township, Manchester Township, Paradise Township, Conewago Township, North York, Franklin Township and Jackson Township.

By Northern Regional's estimates, the department could provide service to Heidelberg Township and Spring Grove at 90 hours per week each at $394,000.

Lash said he believes the department is a good fit for the municipalities because it already covers surrounding areas.

“We are contiguous to Heidelberg Township on three of their four sides," he said.

There would be three officers in that general area 24/7, according to the deputy chief.

The York Area chief said officers will be assigned to the potential new municipalities based on call volume and need to handle calls for service and preventative patrol as required by the municipalities. 

Chiefs at both departments have said some of their officers live in Southwestern's municipalities already. 

Both department heads have also said they could hire existing Southwestern officers. Lash said as of Thursday, Oct. 24, no Southwestern officers have applied for positions at the department.

Southwestern's officers have voiced support for joining York Area Regional Police. 

Contracts for both departments would be for five years. 

Spring Grove's borough council meets again Monday, Nov. 4. Heidelberg Township supervisors meet  Nov. 6.

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

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