Hellam Township Police to serve Wrightsville 24/7
After more than 10 years under Wrightsville Police, residents will soon see new officers patrolling their streets.
Wrightsville Mayor Michael Albert said the borough council unanimously voted to approve a contract with Hellam Township Police on Monday, June 18. The existing Wrightsville Police Department will be disbanded as a result.
The three full-time officers still with the department will be hired as Hellam Township officers.
The mayor said borough residents are expected to save $85,000 in police services. Additionally, the borough will receive 24/7 coverage, he said.
“It’s a win-win situation both in taxes and police coverage," Albert said.
The change is expected to go into effect on July 1.
Hellam Township: Albert said there had been discussion between Wrightsville's council members and Hellam Township's supervisors regarding a potential merger. It was around April when Hellam Township Police Chief Doug Pollock mentioned the department taking over policing to Albert, the mayor said.
He wasn't sold on the idea at first, Albert said, but he changed his mind after he looked at the numbers. With the Wrightsville Police Department, Albert said he's not sure the borough would be able to support the department beyond another contract.
“We were talking about it last night again, and it’s just a fact of reality, small towns like this just don't have the tax base without slamming the taxpayer with (higher taxes),” he said Tuesday.
Albert, who has had 28 years of law enforcement experience, said he didn't want to see long-term officers lose their jobs.
“It’s not a pleasant thing, and I was not going to do that to the guys,” he said.
Expected to join the Hellam Township Police Department are officers Adam Schaum, Michael Carpenter and Steven Crater. Schaum has been serving as the officer in charge for the department since former chief Ron Hege was suspended in August. Hege was subsquently fired in November.
The department had a part-time officer who was not hired with Hellam Township Police. Albert said that officer still had a full-time job elsewhere.
Move: As part of the move, Wrightsville's officers will retain their seniority in terms of retirement and will also get a pay raise, Albert said.
"They don't have to start back to zero and have to work back to 20 years again," he said.
The mayor said the Wrightsville officers are supportive of the decision.
Pollock said the Wrightsville officers will be treated as new officers and will have to be trained to work the way the Hellam Township department does. Despite that, Pollock said the transition should be pretty smooth. Both departments have worked closely together and continue to do so.
“They come to our calls, we go to their calls," Pollock said.
The chief said once the move is official the department will be staffed with 12 officers.
Albert said with police services being handled by Hellam Township, the borough will now have 24/7 coverage.
“We had very close to (24/7 coverage), but we were finding, especially in the summer, which is normal ... that the guys were having to work a tremendous amount of overtime,” Albert said.
Albert has been vocal in support of Schaum, who's been acting chief for almost a year now. With Pollock, Albert feels the same, he said.
“I trust him explicitly, I’m confident in his leadership abilities and his management abilities," the mayor said.
Deal: Hellam Township Police will be taking equipment, such as vehicles, from Wrightsville Police, according to Pollock.
The money the department would have spent on the equipment was deducted from Wrightsville's first year cost for policing, he said.
Albert said the borough will now pay about $360,000 for the first year of policing. That rate, he said, will start July 1 and go until the end of 2019. The contract with Hellam Township Police is for three years, he said. The mayor said the borough will save about $400,000 over the period of the contract.
Even though discussions didn't start until not too long ago, the mayor emphasized that it was not a "snap decision" but rather something that officials from both municipalities discussed.
He said everything fell into place and everyone was able to make agreements.
Hellam Township Police also cover Hallam borough. The chief said there's a police committee made up of Hallam officials he deals with in police matters in the borough, and he said Wrightsville will form its own committee that he will meet with.
Pollock said the municipalities already share things, including emergency medical services, and that having the same police department seems like a natural progression.
Albert said the police station located at 129 S. Second St., and the building is owned by the Wrightsville Fire Department, which is also stationed at the building. The grounds, he said, are owned by the borough.
“That’s going to be something that council and the fire department have to work out," he said.
This isn't the first time Hellam Township Police have served Wrightsville. According to York Dispatch records, the Wrightsville Police Department was disbanded in 2003 so Hellam Township Police could provide service.
That contract with Hellam Township Police ended in 2006, and the Wrightsville department was then restarted.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at email@example.com or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.