Police debate fuels political challenge in North Codorus

Signs supporting the service of Southwestern Regional Police appear along a road in Stoverstown Tuesday, March 19, 2019. In October, supervisors submitted their intent to abandon the service of the by the end of 2019, citing rising costs as the reason behind the departure. Bill Kalina photo

Denny Ilyes, a North Codorus Township businessman, has one reason why he's running for a township supervisor position. 

"It's all about the police," he said.

Township officials, citing rising costs, among other issues, have voted to leave Southwestern Regional Police by the end of the year. The township pays roughly half of the department's yearly budget.

Ilyes, a Republican, is challenging incumbent Rodney Shearer, also a Republican, for the position of township supervisor. There is no Democrat seeking the seat. 

“We need police protection, and our supervisors that are on the board have a personal vendetta," Ilyes said.

But Shearer, who's been in the position since 2014, said that's not the case. He said he asks questions about police budgets and other costs but doesn't get answers.

"Anybody thinks that's personal — that's part of a supervisor's job," he said. 

Ilyes said his only agenda is to make sure that the people on the township board are representing the residents. 

He runs the Twin Pine Farm Country Store in North Codorus Township.

“Everybody that comes into my store talks about it," Ilyes said.

More:North Codorus official: Cost isn't the only issue with Southwestern police

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More:North Codorus rejects Southwestern police budget, faces $1M penalty for leaving department

On Wednesday, April 10, during a Southwestern Regional Police board meeting, board members voted to circulate a draft separation agreement to each of the four municipal boards.

The agreement would have North Codorus Township paying up to $1 million as a penalty for leaving the department. The township would pay that off quarterly. 

“Our legal counsel assures us it’s nowhere even close … to a million dollars," Shearer said. 

Southwestern Regional serves Manheim Township, North Codorus Township, Heidelberg Township and Spring Grove. The board, which governs the department, comprises two representatives from each municipality. Shearer is one of North Codorus' two representatives. 

Walter Tilley, board solicitor, said each municipal board should review the proposed agreement, then provide comments to the police board by the May 8 meeting.

“I wouldn’t want to go for another month, in May, without having some feedback from North Codorus Township," Tilley said.

North Codorus received proposals from Northern York County Regional Police and West Manchester Township Police, and that information was presented during the township's Tuesday, April 16, meeting. 

Northern Regional offered a 3-year contract for about $744,000 per year, and West Manchester Township offered a 10-year contract for $825,000 per year, with a $200,000 buy-in.

But Ilyes thinks the township won't sign on with another police force but instead will opt for state police coverage, which is free for now, though the Wolf administration has proposed instituting a fee.

Ilyes said if the township has money to pay $1 million for leaving the department, then it's not a financial situation.

“When they won’t even answer questions at the meetings about it — that’s a slap in the face to every resident,” Ilyes said.

Ilyes said if he gets elected, and if the township leaves Southwestern Regional Police, he would work to reverse the decision.

Southwestern Regional Police Department's monthly board meeting at the station in Heidelberg Township, Wednesday, April 10, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

But Shearer said he doesn't know how Ilyes would "save police."

"We want to provide people with services by the police, we gotta know that by midyear," he said.

Shearer said he didn't think it was a good idea to run on one idea. He also said he hasn't seen Ilyes at township meetings.

Shearer, who is a full-time farmer, said he ran for the position in 2014 because he wanted to lower taxes for the residents. He had been a supervisor before but did not run for re-election in 2007.

He said at one point the township was paying more than $100,000 per year for engineering fees. Shearer, who had 25 years of experience excavating, said he brought his expertise to the township.

“We spent less than $10,000 in engineering fees in 2018," he said.

Shearer, who is also the township road master, said the township now resurfaces about 5 to 7 miles of roads per year, which he said is important.

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

"The roads are in terrible shape," he said.

Taking care of the roads and helping lower taxes were the two main things he wanted to do as a supervisor.

"I like to be involved, because you can't make decisions for the whole township if you're not involved," Shearer said.

Still, Shearer's not worried about the race, which will be determined in the May primary.

“I’m not going to lose any sleep over it if I don’t make it," he said.

Police board: The board also approved Chief Greg Bean's request to look into potentially hiring part-time officers, which would require negotiations in the police contract.

Two officers have left in recent months, which Bean attributed to North Codorus Township's decision to leave.

Bean said there are currently 11 active officers, with a 12th one suspended without pay. The department is fully staffed at 14 officers.

“It changed everything," Bean said.

The chief said the department is OK with the current number of officers it has, but part-time officers would help should one of their officers take vacation or sick time.

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