Southwestern Police's fate sealed by Heidelberg vote

Lindsay C. VanAsdalan and Tina Locurto
The York Dispatch

Southwestern Regional Police Department is effectively dead after Heidelberg Township on Wednesday became the final municipality to abandon the agency for another one.

Members of the police board have considered dissolving the department since its biggest financial contributor, North Codorus Township, voted earlier this year to leave the department in 2020.

That township's departure set off a chain reaction that resulted in the three remaining municipalities following suit. 

"The writing was on the wall that the department wouldn't survive, so there was no reason to push that over the year," said Heidelberg supervisor and Southwestern police board chairman Matt Bollinger of the police board's decision to waive its one-year waiting period for a member municipality to leave.

Heidelberg Township Supervisor Matt Bollinger listens to representatives from Northern York County Regional Police Department and York Area Regional Police Department as they propose potential service to Heidelberg Township during a township meeting in Heidelberg Township, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Heidelberg voted Wednesday night to leave Southwestern Regional Police, the final municipality of four to drop the dissolving police agency. The township's Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve a five-year contract with the Northern York County Regional Police Department.

More:Heidelberg Twp. to leave Southwestern Regional Police, chooses Northern Regional

Officials from fellow Southwestern member Manheim Township voted in October to contract with Northern Regional next year.  Spring Grove's board voted in November to contract with York Area Regional Police in 2020. 

"This dissolves the Southwestern department," said Tim Hansen, who sits on the Heidelberg board. "It's a tough decision. I have to come down to public safety, and that to me is response time." 

More:Spring Grove council votes to join York Area Police

More:Southwestern board eyes dissolving dept. while weighing coverage options

Now that the decision to dissolve Southwestern is all but official, officials are preparing to legally deconstruct the department and sell its assets on a monthly basis until next year, Bollinger said.

That would include selling its building, which Northern Regional's department has expressed interest in, officials said. 

"It was kind of a bombshell, but Northern Regional actually informed the residents and the supervisors (Wednesday) at the meeting that they will buy the building for fair market price," Bollinger said. 

Rick Lint, right, looks on as fellow board member Rodney Shearer speaks during the Southwestern Regional Police Department's monthly board meeting at the station in Heidelberg Township, Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Northern Regional wants to run a satellite station out of the building, and a county agency is also interested in renting the space, Bollinger said.

Northern's officials decided that would be best if they're going to have such a large presence out that way, Bollinger said.

"That was news to us," he said, noting that it was a pleasant surprise.

Bollinger said the sale could have dragged out for a long time because the special-use building can't be sold to just anyone. Though the process could still go past December, knowing there's an interested buyer will make it smoother, he said.

Southwestern's officers will likely continue to serve the municipalities through the end of December, he said, but dates will be finalized by officials. The next police board meeting is 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11.

More:The remains of Southwestern police could benefit taxpayers in York Area, Northern

York Area Regional officials reported at the Heidelberg meeting Wednesday that they received four applications from Southwestern Regional officers, Bollinger said.

He said it's likely at least two officers will be hired because Spring Grove joined the department.

Lash told the board that Northern Regional had given applications to every Southwestern officer, and with some officers retiring next year, they should be able to hire about eight or nine.

"The vote to disband has only come very recently," said Sgt. Jamie Stalcup, officer in charge at Southwestern. "This is putting a time crunch on everything — shutting down current police and business operations, current personnel securing jobs, and the new departments hurrying to adapt operations to take on additional jurisdiction."

North Codorus officials are now also weighing a decision on whether to join the Northern Regional police commission as a full participant member instead of just contracting with the department. Supervisors plan to vote at 8 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10.

It would cost the township $23,000 to buy in, a resident claims in a letter submitted to The York Dispatch. Residents are planning a rally at 7:30 a.m.