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North Codorus inches closer to ditching Southwestern police

Northern York County Regional Police Chief Mark Bentzel, left, talks with residents prior to a North Codorus Township supervisors meeting, Tuesday, June 18, 2019.
John A. Pavoncello photo

North Codorus Township residents could see Northern York County Regional Police officers patrolling the area next year.

Township supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday night to advertise a contract with the department during a nearly three-hour meeting. 

Township solicitor Andrew Miller told a crowd of roughly 40 people that the contract, if approved, would cost the township $744,000 for 170 hours of police service each week.

The contract is for five years and would require a two-year notice for withdrawal. 

Rodney Shearer, a township supervisor who serves on Southwestern's police board, said township board members hope to officially vote on the contract in July.

He also said he would suggest a merger with Southwestern and Northern regional police departments.

"I'll make that phone call tomorrow," he said late Tuesday.

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The township is currently a member of Southwestern Regional Police. Township officials, citing rising costs, among other things, announced in October that they intended to leave Southwestern by the end of 2019. 

North Codorus Township pays nearly $1 million for police services, which is roughly half of the department's annual budget. The township receives about 250 hours of police service, which township officials have said is too much.

Currently, police board members are trying to determine a withdrawal fee for North Codorus Township.

Southwestern police board solicitor Walter Tilley has said the township could pay $1 million to leave the department; however, North Codorus officials have said that number is inflated. North Codorus officials have declined to release what they estimate their fee would be.

"In my opinion, we'll save a lot of money," Shearer said.

North Codorus supervisors voted to send a response to the police board's draft separation agreement, and in it they included a request for a department-wide audit. 

Shearer claimed the department's hours were being improperly tracked and that the township should be reimbursed for time it didn't receive.

"We don't know how many hours we've been getting," he said.

The decision to advertise a contract with Northern Regional was met Tuesday night with a loud uproar from attending residents, some of whom had suggested potentially extending the intent to withdraw until a plan is in place and vetted.

"We expect better from you," township resident Emily LeVault said just before the vote. "We will elect better next time."

Southwestern also serves Heidelberg Township, Manheim Township and Spring Grove.

Attending the board's meeting Tuesday were Northern Regional Police Chief Mark Bentzel and Lt. Gregg Anderson, who presented the plan for North Codorus Township, should it join the department.

Should North Codorus switch to Northern Regional, the township would not be a part of the police board, the governing entity of that department.

Miller said the decision was made so that if the township wishes to leave Northern Regional, it would be an easier process and the township would not have to pay a withdrawal fee.

However, as part of the township's contract, it could join the department as a member, which would grant the township one voting member on the board.

Bentzel estimated the township would have to pay a one-time fee of about $23,000 to join as a member.

Northern Regional covers Dover borough, Dover Township, Manchester Township, Paradise Township, Conewago Township, North York, Franklin Township and Jackson Township. 

Each municipality has one voting member on the board. 

Northern Regional, the state's first regional police department, which formed in 1972, has 54 officers.

Southwestern, which formed in 2002, would be fully staffed at 14 officers. However, there are currently nine active officers with the department. 

The Southwestern police board meets again 7 p.m. July 10 at the police department at 6115 Thoman Drive in Heidelberg Township.

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