Northeastern Regional Police Board inches toward merger with York Area Regional
The Northeastern Regional Police Board took the first step Monday toward merging with York Area Regional Police, and several board members said they preferred fusing with that agency over Northern York County Regional Police.
The Northeastern Regional board members agreed to return to their respective municipalities — East Manchester Township and Manchester and Mount Wolf boroughs — to get their approval to look more seriously at a merger, but nothing more.
Board member Josh Parish, a Mount Wolf Borough Council member, said he's worked on mergers between local fire departments and between ambulance organizations.
"They're tough. They're complicated. They get messy," he said, adding that merger discussions tend to be "a contractual mess" and that the police board doesn't have a choice but to take the process slowly.
"If we do it right and we do it methodically, it'll last, and I think that's the important thing," Parish said.
The merger proposals could resolve the yearlong budget stalemate between East Manchester Township and the two boroughs on Northeastern Regional's board.
The township has said it will not pay more than 70% of the police budget, based on the funding formula calculation, and that the boroughs have been underpaying their share. The board failed to pass a 2020 budget, so the department has been operating under the 2019 budget.
Several board members said they liked the York Area Regional proposal, which promises to keep every Northeastern Regional officer employed, including Chief Bryan Rizzo and his support staff, and allow them to continue working out of their own station.
It was unclear how much savings, if any, local governments would see from a merger with York Area because the preliminary proposals didn't include dollar figures, officials said Tuesday.
But York Regional's proposal goes further.
Rizzo said York Area Regional has also offered to change its name and issue new patches to all officers, fully integrating them into a new, merged department.
He didn't say what the new name would be.
Mount Wolf Mayor Maureen "Mo" Starner said York Area Regional's proposal seemed more like a merger and Northern Regional's proposal seemed more like an acquisition, and that of the two, she preferred York Area Regional.
Dave Naylor, chair of the Northeastern Regional Police Board and an East Manchester Township supervisor, had a similar comment.
"If Northern Regional could throw in a full merger, where all our employees are guaranteed, we would certainly look at that seriously," Naylor said. "But that's not the case right now."
Northern Regional Police Chief Dave Lash, who attended Monday's meeting, said that if the openings existed he would offer them to every Northeastern Regional employee but that he doesn't want to create positions and generate more costs for municipalities than what they need.
Starner said she also wanted to reach out to other nearby departments, such as the Newberry Township Police and Hellam Township Police, to see if they would be interested in merging, but Manchester Borough Councilman Adam Bowman said that would delay the process by several months.
Lt. Ken Schollenberger from York Area Regional attended the meeting on behalf of Chief Tim Damon.
Schollenberger responded to Starner and said if Northeastern Regional merged with another small, municipal department, the police board would likely find itself in the same budget crunch it's dealing with now, and Rizzo agreed.
Northern Regional and York Area Regional also competed this past year for coverage of several municipalities when Southwestern Regional Police dissolved.
The next Northeastern Regional Police Board meeting will be 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 19.