North Codorus challenger: Landslide win was a referendum on police service
Denny Ilyes, a North Codorus Township business owner who ran on the platform of staying with Southwestern Regional Police, won Tuesday's GOP primary in a landslide, but that didn't change supervisors' minds about potentially leaving the department.
“The decision to leave the Southwestern Police force was based on numbers, based on facts, it was not based on who was going to scream the loudest," township Supervisor Rodney Shearer said Wednesday, May 22. "We did it for the best of the township.”
Ilyes easily bested Shearer on Tuesday, receiving almost 80% of the vote. No Democrats appeared on Tuesday's ballot.
"I am not changing my vote," Supervisor Dennis Luckenbaugh said Wednesday morning.
He said the township will go with the lowest bidder for police service.
"That's how we do business," he said.
Supervisor Nelson Brenneman did not immediately return a message seeking comment Wednesday morning.
On Wednesday, Ilyes credited his supporters with helping him get elected. He said that in his opinion, the election was tantamount to a public opinion survey about the regional police department that township supervisors refused to conduct.
“I feel the people voted for me because they’re tired of people who don’t listen to what they want," he said.
Shearer, who serves on the Southwestern Regional Police Board, the governing entity of the department, received about 200 votes in the Republican primary Tuesday, May 21. Ilyes received 784.
Barring a successful write-in campaign, Ilyes will win the election in November.
While the police issue was a big part of his campaign, Ilyes said it was also the township supervisors not listening to the people that pushed him to run. He said when he takes the position, he will listen to what the residents want.
Now, he said, supervisors should see that residents are unhappy.
“If they don’t see it this time, they will in two years when they vote Nelson Brenneman out," Ilyes said.
Ilyes aims to change the board from a three-person one to a five-person one, he said.
Ilyes said the board might rush through a police contract ahead of January, when he would ultimately take office should he breeze through November's municipal election.
“Will they deliberately get rid of Southwestern now that I’m elected?" he said. "That’s a possibility.”
Ilyes won't have a chance to change the current police situation unless it runs into next year, when he would take over the township supervisor position. Township board members have said they hope to have a plan in place within a few months.
“I would try to do everything I can to have police service, and preferably Southwestern," Ilyes said.
Township officials, citing rising costs among other things, voted to leave Southwestern Regional Police by the end of 2019. Currently the township pays roughly $1 million for police service, which is about half of Southwestern's yearly budget.
Ongoing discussions: During a township meeting Tuesday, supervisors voted to continue discussions for services from Northern York County Regional Police while the township's potential exit with Southwestern Regional Police gets ironed out.
Last month, Northern Regional Police provided a proposal for service to the township under a three-year contract for $744,000 per year, with 170 hours per week.
During the township supervisors' meeting Tuesday, supervisors Luckenbaugh and Brenneman motioned the solicitor to see if they could get a contract of at least five years and also wanted to see if the township could buy more hours in the contract, should it need it.
Under the current proposal, the township would have to provide a two-year notice to leave Northern Regional Police, but there would not be a penalty for leaving.
Southwestern provides about 250 weekly hours of service, and township officials have said it only needs about 170.
West Manchester Township Police offered a 10-year contract for $825,000 a year, with a $200,000 buy-in. Brenneman called the price "ridiculous."
“I don’t feel we can go with West Manchester because of the price,” he said.
Shearer said he couldn't attend Tuesday's meeting because he was at the polls during the day and had to work that night.
Services: Earlier this month, members of the Southwestern Regional Police Board declined to provide contracted services to North Codorus Township. That would have kept the township off of the police board but would have allowed the township to choose the hours it needs.
Instead, the board brought forward a budget that would cut cost and service by 25%. Under that budget, a "working document moving forward," North Codorus Township would pay $866,000 for 194 hours of service per week.
But Andrew Miller, North Codorus Township's solicitor, told residents at the Tuesday meeting that that budget relies on a change in the police officers' contract, which is still being worked on.
“That proposal can be floated around as though that's an option for this board, but it probably isn’t an option — that’s just a reality of where they are,” Miller said.
The police board's solicitor has said that should North Codorus Township go through with leaving the department, the township could be on the hook to pay roughly $1 million in a penalty fee.
Ilyes previously served on the police board as a citizen representative for North Codorus Township. He said he would join the police board in Shearer's place should the township still be with Southwestern Regional Police.
The department also serves Heidelberg Township, Manheim Township and Spring Grove.
The Southwestern Regional Police Board meets again at 7 p.m. June 12 at the police station at 6115 Thoman Drive in Heidelberg Township.
— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @YDDornblaser.