EDITORIAL: Let's stay together
Residents gather outside the North Codorus Township building to support Southwestern Regional Police. Christopher Dornblaser, 717-505-5436/@YDDornblaser
Now we’re talking.
Well … now they’re talking, and that’s a good thing for the roughly 20,000 York County residents served by the Southwestern Regional Police Department.
With its largest member municipality heading for the door after months of infighting, the police board met earlier this week and agreed to pursue a compromise to keep North Codorus Township in the fold.
Citing rising costs among other things, township officials notified the board last fall that it intends to leave the department by the end of this year.
The township pays about $1 million a year for police services, or roughly half the department's budget, and the departure would leave a gaping hole in Southwestern Regional’s finances.
That would create uncertainty in the remaining municipalities — Manheim and Heidelberg townships and the borough of Spring Grove — which would have to lure a new member or decide where to cut.
Although North Codorus Township officials have valid concerns, in our opinion, its immediate future looks no brighter if the divorce becomes final.
First, it faces a hefty penalty for leaving the department, and secondly there’s no guarantee the township can find a better deal for the same quality service.
Last month the township turned down a proposed Southwestern Regional budget that would have cut costs by 25%. The township would have paid about $866,000 per year under that budget, and it would have received about 190 weekly hours of service.
After that rebuff, the board issued a news release stating it would examine the penalty for North Codorus Township's departure, which could be as much as one year's payment of $992,000.
Amid the turmoil, longtime Police Chief Greg Bean announced he's resigning, saying he hopes to be part of the "solution."
“When some of the concerns came up in our board meetings, and the thought was that we needed to decrease costs, which meant decrease personnel, that certainly had an effect on what I thought was good and proper," he said.
With both sides entrenched, it appeared the only thing left to decide was who gets the dogs and who gets the china.
Now it seems a reconciliation of sorts could be in the works.
During a special police board meeting Tuesday, April 23, Rodney Shearer, a North Codorus, supervisor who serves on the police board, suggested the township contract with the department.
By giving up its member status, North Codorus Township would not have voting members on the police board, but it would have the freedom to purchase only the number of service hours it feels it needs.
“You’re pretty much taking the politics out of it," Matt Bollinger, a Heidelberg Township supervisor who serves as chairman of the police board, said of the idea.
In fact, it was so popular, Manheim Township’s police board representative said he’d like to see a contract proposal as well.
“We’re trying to make things clearer and make things smoother, and that seems to me like that would," Larry Miller said.
He said Manheim Township also wants fewer hours and could accomplish that through contracted services.
"It works out for everyone," Miller said.
And just like that, the board unanimously approved a motion to draft proposals for contracted services for both municipalities.
“Things are going to move along as speedy as possible," Bollinger told a crowd of roughly 50 people who attended the meeting.
In another sign of détente, Shearer, who had previously said he would share more reasons for North Codorus’ decision to leave the department, opted not to go there during Tuesday’s meeting.
"It just doesn't help to stir things up," he said.
That's probably a smart move at this stage — the next best thing to talking is knowing when to keep one's mouth shut.