North Codorus official: Cost isn't the only issue with Southwestern police
A North Codorus official said Tuesday that it isn't just the cost that's driving his township out of Southwestern Regional Police, saying the township's opinion on budgeting and staff contracts have consistently been ignored.
In October, North Codorus officials had announced the township's intention to leave Southwestern Regional Police. The police department has since tried to keep North Codorus — its largest financial contributor — from abandoning the regional department by year's end.
North Codorus Supervisor Rodney Shearer said the township should better spell out its reasons for potentially leaving Southwestern Regional.
"I feel we need to start doing that more, as much as we can — without getting into litigation problems," he said Tuesday.
The township pays nearly $1 million a year for police service, which is roughly half of the department's yearly budget. North Codorus also boasts about half of the total population within the department's four-municipality coverage region.
Should North Codorus Township abandon the department, it would leave Heidelberg Township, Manheim Township and Spring Grove as three municipalities in the department.
Contract negotiation: Among the gripes, township officials took exception when, in 2017, police board chairman Matt Bollinger unilaterally handled contract negotiations with the police union instead of involving the negotiating committee, on which Shearer sat at the time.
But the committee was locked in a stalemate with the union, Bollinger said Tuesday, and his intervention might have kept the matter heading to arbitration.
Police board members, including Shearer, were kept abreast of the proceedings throughout the negotiation, Bollinger said.
Regional police Chief Greg Bean also was involved with the contract talks without committee approval, Shearer said. Bean said his involvement was merely to provide "facts and figures."
During that time, Bean asked board solicitor Walter Tilley various scenarios for the police department and incurred about $3,000 in expenses from the solicitor without board approval, according to Shearer.
Board approval has never before been necessary when Tilley's expertise was needed, Bean said.
Budget: Shearer said when the 2019 budget came up, North Codorus Township supervisors submitted concerns and presented some ideas to Bollinger.
“Matt Bollinger decided for some reason not to share it with anyone," Shearer said.
Bollinger said he wasn't sure why he had to share that information, which he said was sent to other board members and members of the police department.
Shearer didn't remember exactly what was included in the suggestions, but he noted it included percentage of raises and health insurance costs.
He said it wasn't until recently that the board started really looking into making changes.
"It’s because they understand we are very serious about leaving this time if they can’t fix this thing," he said.
The township recently turned down a budget for the police department that would have cut their costs by about 25 percent.
Shearer said that a lot of the township's concerns with the budget have to do with the police contract, which he wasn't sure he was allowed to discuss.
Shearer did say he was pleased by the numbers in the contract though. He said that budget had them paying about $866,000 for police services.
Letter of intent: Earlier this month, township residents peppered North Codorus supervisors with questions and criticisms about the plan to pull out of the regional department.
The articles of agreement for the department state any municipality wishing to withdraw must provide at least a year's notice. Department officials have said North Codorus could be on the hook for up to $1 million if it abandons the department.
Bollinger said the police board is now working on that fee. and any budget recommended to the township would likely be the same one that was already turned down, he said.
Still, he hopes North Codorus Township will stay.
“I believe the community wants that," he said.
That sentiment was echoed by Bean.
"We want to continue serving North Codorus Township and their residents," he said.
Shearer said the township should receive proposal drafts for service from West Manchester Township and Northern York County Regional Police by April 15. The next supervisor meeting is April 16.
Shearer said the township needs to weigh the cost of leaving Southwestern Regional against the cost for services from other departments.
“We can’t write anybody off until we get everything in,” he said.
The police board meets again at 7 p.m. April 10 at the police station at 6115 Thoman Drive.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.