Southwestern Regional Police Board quiet on chief's cost-cutting ideas

Members of the Southwestern Regional Police Board are discussing potential cost-savings ideas for the department, but they aren't releasing any details yet.

Chief Greg Bean said he presented suggestions for cost-saving measures during the board's Dec. 12 meeting. That came after North Codorus Township officials voted to withdraw from the department at the end of 2019 over police costs.

Walter Tilley, the police board's solicitor, said the ideas could not be discussed publicly because at least one of the options discussed involves a specific personnel issue.

He noted that does not necessarily mean those issues would require collective bargaining or layoffs.

Tilley said the ideas were discussed in executive session by the board, which is made up of officials from the department's member municipalities: North Codorus Township, Manheim Township, Spring Grove and Heidelberg Township.

Those members will take the ideas to their respective municipal boards for discussion, also within executive session, before coming back to the police board with feedback, according to Tilley.

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

Premature: Tilley, Bean and police board Chairman Matt Bollinger all declined to go into specifics about the cost-cutting suggestions. All three said it would be premature to do so.

However, Bollinger, a Heidelberg Township supervisor, did say the chief's ideas would cut department costs by as much as 15 percent.

He cautioned these ideas could change at any time, and that the board is still in the beginning stages of the process.

"We've just started to draw on the drawing board a little bit," Bollinger said.

Tilley said the members will be discussing the options in executive session but that any vote on them would have to be done in public, which would allow for public discussion and input.

“It’s premature to say how the board will respond," Tilley said Thursday, Dec. 20.

He also said that if members decide to go into collective bargaining, that decision would be made in public, too.

“If there are changes to be made in the personnel, they have to be negotiated through the union through collective bargaining," Tilley said.

Southwestern Regional Police Chief Greg Bean holds a press conference on the murder of Samantha Stein, Monday, Dec. 18, 2017. John A. Pavoncello photo

North Codorus Township Supervisor Rodney Shearer, who is also a member of the police board, told residents at the township meeting Tuesday, Dec. 18, that he was instructed by Tilley to not speak publicly about the ideas.

Shearer said he would like to tell the public about the ideas. After the meeting he said personnel issues prevented him from discussing the issue publicly.

Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel for the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association, said if the discussions involved specific personnel, then it can be discussed in an executive session, but general cost-cutting measures should be discussed in public.

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Going forward: Tilley said board members are trying to resolve the issues.

"They're very much in a problem-solving mode," he said, adding that he thinks everyone is trying to find a solution.

Bollinger shared similar thoughts.

“I think at this point the board has come to a grand consensus that all of us sitting there have to collectively come together to get a reasonable solution,” he said.

Like Bollinger, Tilley stressed that the board is still in the beginning process.

"This is going to be a very slow and deliberative process," he said.

Tilley encouraged residents to attend all the meetings.

“We are putting as much information out there publicly as we possibly can,” he said.

Bollinger, speaking on behalf of Heidelberg Township, said the township doesn't have any issues with the department.

Background: In October, the North Codorus Township supervisors unanimously voted to leave the department in 2020. All supervisors said it their decision was due to department costs.

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

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. 

Shearer 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.

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

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

The Southwestern Regional Police board meets again on Jan. 9 at the police department. 

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