Wrong proposal halts progress with New Freedom, Southern Regional PD

Signs are popping up all over New Freedom as residents show their support the Southern Regional Police Department, Tuesday, February 13, 2018. John A. Pavoncello photo

The future of Southern Regional Police in New Freedom remains up in the air. 

During the borough's most recent council meeting on April 9, members passed a motion to stay with Southern Regional Police, as a contracted community, for five years. 

That proposed contract was supposed to be sent to the police commission, the governing entity of the department, but that didn't happen.

Glen Rock Mayor John Trout, chair of the commission, said a contract was sent by New Freedom solicitor Steven Hovis, but it did not reflect the motion that was passed.

The contract was rejected by members of the other municipalities during a continuation meeting held by the commission on Tuesday, April 17.

Andrew Stewart, a Glen Rock borough councilman and member of the commission, said he's tired of New Freedom officials playing "games."

"New Freedom's got to s— or get off the pot," he said. 

The continuation meeting was held solely so the commission could respond to New Freedom's latest move. 

More:New Freedom approves 'downright stupid' proposal to contract police services

More:Southern Regional Police commission rejects New Freedom's proposal

More:New Freedom reconsiders leaving Southern Regional Police

More:Police chief to New Freedom: 'Give us a chance'

Proposal: This comes after months of back-and-forth between New Freedom officials and members of the police commission.

The commission is made up of representatives from each of the four boroughs in the department: New Freedom, Glen Rock, Shrewsbury and Stewartstown.

Under the proposal that was supposed to be sent to the commission, New Freedom would pay the same amount of money it currently pays, but it would lose its seats on the police commission.

New Freedom Borough Council Vice President Jeff Blum, second from the left, speaks during the Southern Regional Police Commission meeting Tuesday, April 17. Christopher Dornblaser photo.

The motion that was passed included five years under the current payment method. The contract sent to the commission called for three years under a different payment method.

"This is not what we voted on," Larry O'Brien, New Freedom councilman and commission member, said during Tuesday's meeting.

Reached Wednesday, April 18, Hovis declined comment and instead directed questions to New Freedom officials. Messages left for the council president were not immediately returned Thursday afternoon.

Going forward: The department has been using a new funding formula called Police Protection Units, or PPUs, since July 2017, after New Freedom and Glen Rock submitted letters of intent to leave at the end of that year, citing funding issues. That method allows municipalities to purchase service hours, which the chief would allocate appropriately.

All of the full-member municipalities agreed to remain with the department through the end of 2018 to see how the new formula worked out. 

Currently, the contracted communities and school districts are not under the PPU formula, according to Chief Jim Boddington. He said the idea is to have the four member municipalities paying the department under the formula before eventually converting the contracted communities and school districts to it.

Jeff Blum, New Freedom council vice president and commission member, said it's his understanding that the New Freedom council members are taking issue with the fact that school districts aren't paying the PPU rate. 

Knowing that those schools will be paying the PPU rate in the future will alleviate some of the council's concerns, he said. 

Shrewsbury Borough Mayor Michael Sharkey suggested New Freedom hold a special meeting on the topic, since New Freedom's council won't meet until mid-May.

Blum said he would suggest to Dennis Sarpen, the council president, that the council hold a special public meeting on the issue. 

Previously reported: Sarpen told a crowd of about 100 residents at the April 9 meeting that New Freedom council members can't seem to mesh with the rest of the commission members.

"It's not a matter of us getting our way; it's a matter of being heard on this commission," he said.

In January, New Freedom officials announced the borough was leaving Southern Regional Police Department, effective at the end of the year.

New Freedom officials said at the time that the size of the department and its financial stability were the reasons for the departure. They pushed the police commission to pursue merging with another department or look for other municipalities to join the department.

During April's council meeting, O'Brien motioned to stay with the department for five years, but the motion did not pass. Councilman Bruce Merrill motioned to pursue contract negotiations with Southwestern Regional Police, but that motion did not pass.

Blum motioned to have the borough pursue five years under contracted services and under the current payment plan, which passed.

O'Brien agreed with one member in the audience that the motion that passed was "downright stupid" but said it was the only way to stop a motion to proceed into negotiations with another police department.

Barring a special meeting, the New Freedom Borough Council will meet again at 7 p.m. May 14 at the New Freedom community center at 150 E. Main St.

The police commission will meet again at 7 p.m. May 2 at the New Freedom Borough building. 

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