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Southwestern Regional Police chief seeks compromise in member spat

Southwestern Regional Police Department in Heidelberg Township, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

North Codorus Township's future with Southwestern Regional Police remains uncertain while officials try to find a way to cut costs.

During the township supervisors' meeting Tuesday, Nov. 20, Southwestern Regional Police Chief Greg Bean said he is trying to see what all four member municipalities are looking for as cost-saving measures for the police department.

"Hopefully in the next month or so we'll find out what would be a good figure of what we should plan for, what we should look for, for cutting costs," Bean said.

In October, the township supervisors unanimously voted to leave the department in 2020. All supervisors said it was the cost that led to their decision.

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“They bring our cost down, I’ll be the first one to say we keep them,” township Chairman  Supervisor Nelson Brenneman said during the meeting.

Along with North Codorus Township, Southwestern Regional Police covers Spring Grove, Manheim Township and Heidelberg Township.

North Codorus Township has the largest population of the department's four municipalities, and it contributes 48 percent of the department's budget for an equal percentage of police service, officials have said. 

Supervisor Rodney Shearer, also a member of the department's police board, told The York Dispatch in October that the township is paying $992,000 this year for police service, and that figure jumps to a little more than $1 million next year, according to Shearer.

He said the township only needs about 160 hours of the 253 weekly hours of service it purchases.

Meeting: During Tuesday's meeting, residents spoke about the police situation.

Steve Smith asked Bean if the other municipalities had been asked to purchase service hours from North Codorus Township.

"They choose not to right now," Bean said.

Smith said the township's been trying to compromise with the department for years. He said North Codorus Township pays the bulk of the costs but only gets 25 percent of the votes on the department's board.

"There hasn't been any compromise on the part of the other three municipalities," he said. 

Bean said the municipalities are working on it.

"Compromise is something that we have hoped for; it just hasn't happened yet," he said.

The chief said they're trying to figure out a way to lessen payroll, which is the highest cost.

Township resident Willa Lefever said that everyone involved has to "give a little" and said the township would be losing valuable police services.

She encouraged officials to conduct a survey to see what the residents really want. Lefever noted that she is hearing most people want to keep the department. She said she doesn't see many people in favor of leaving the department.

"Why don't those people come here and share that perspective?" she asked.

Brenneman said he has heard people say they are opposed to the department, but they don't come to the township meetings.

The North Codorus Township board of supervisors met Tuesday, Nov. 20. The board discussed its decision to leave Southwestern Regional Police in 2020. Christopher Dornblaser photo.

Supervisors speak: Shearer said he wanted people to know cutting services isn't on the table. He said he wants the same service with fewer hours.

But Bean said cutting hours is cutting service.

"To set the record straight, that's what the township is asking for," he said.

Shearer mentioned Jackson Township, a municipality of similar size that pays less for coverage by Northern York County Regional Police. 

He said Northern Regional Police wouldn't need as many hours in North Codorus Township as Southwestern Regional Police.

Bean also mentioned that previously the township had requested that officers take less in their contract as a method to cut costs, but that never happened.

However, Brenneman said they never asked the officers to take less but instead asked not to cover the officers' spouses' health insurance unless the spouses weren't working.

"That costs us a lot of money," he said.

The township submitted a letter dated Oct. 9 to the police board stating its intent to withdraw from the department and giving it 30 days to return a proposed separation agreement.

The letter, he said, was to let the municipalities know what was going to happen. The 30-day deadline won't go into effect until January.

"We are very serious about it," Shearer said after the meeting.

The Southwestern Regional Police board, the governing body of the department, meets again at 7 p.m. Dec. 12 at the police department.

The North Codorus Township board of supervisors will meet again at the township building 7 p.m. Dec. 18.

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.