Police board ditches North Codorus Twp. compromise plan

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 after police board members axed exploring contracting police services to the township.

During the board's Wednesday, May 8, meeting, chairman Matt Bollinger, a Heidelberg Township supervisor, said his community and Spring Grove officials aren't interested in contracting services to North Codorus and Manheim townships just yet.

"It doesn't seem financially prudent to offer any type of contracting at this point, in the constant stasis of the department," Bollinger said after the meeting.

The contract-for-service option was suggested during a special meeting last month as a way to potentially keep North Codorus Township with the department.

Township officials, citing rising costs among other things, have voted to leave the regional police department by year's end. The township pays about $1 million a year for police services, roughly half of the department's yearly police budget.

Now, the township must decide whether to stay with Southwestern Regional Police or pursue police services with one of two other departments that have submitted bids. 

Contracting services: Bollinger said the board might be able to explore the idea of contracting to the two municipalities, but not until after the department is stabilized. 

"I'm not opposed to talking about it in the future, but you have to help us fix the issues," Bollinger said.

He also said the department works best when they're all together, which would offer stability for any other municipalities that wish to join.

"What we hope is that North Codorus changes their mind," he said.

Under contracted services, North Codorus Township would have purchased the amount of hours it wants but would have had no representation on the police board, which governs the department.

North Codorus Township Supervisor Rodney Shearer, who serves on the police board, suggested the board explore contracting services to the township during a special meeting last month.

Larry Miller, a Manheim Township supervisor who sits on the police board, suggested the board offer contracted services to Manheim as well, saying it would be easier.

Shearer said the decision not to pursue contracting services was a surprise.

"I thought everybody was excited about that," he said.

North Codorus Township supervisor Rodney Shearer listens to residents during the board's monthly meeting Tuesday, March 19, 2019. In October, supervisors submitted their intent to abandon the service of the Southwestern Regional Police by the end of 2019, citing rising costs as the reason behind the departure. Bill Kalina photo

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Next steps: With contracting services off the table for now, Bollinger brought back a 2020 proposed budget, similar to one presented in March, as a "working document moving forward." 

Under that budget, North Codorus Township would receive 194 hours of service and pay about $866,000 per year for services. The township currently receives about 250 hours of service a week.

The other municipalities would receive about a 25% reduction in services as well, according to Bollinger.

But Shearer expressed concern over that budget, adding that the budget only works if the police officers' contract is changed, which hasn't happened.

Board Member Matt Bollinger 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 board voted to have solicitor Walter Tilley reach out to North Codorus Township's solicitor to discuss a separation agreement. Tilley has estimated the township would have to pay a $1 million penalty to the department if it leaves. 

The township has received bids for service from Northern York County Regional Police and West Manchester Township Police.

Shearer said the township hopes to have a decision by June or July. The township has always been open to staying with Southwestern Regional Police, according to Shearer.

“We’re going to give them a chance as long as we can," he said.

North Codorus Township supervisors meet again at 7 p.m. May 21 at the township building, 1986 Stoverstown Road.

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