East Cocalico officials provide info requested by police board

By on September 18, 2013

By:

ALICE HUMMER Review Correspondent

, Staff Writer

All information requested from East Cocalico Township by the police board at its first meeting Aug. 28 was received by municipal representatives meeting Sept. 16 at the Reamstown Fire Hall.

Municipal representatives from all municipalities served by East Cocalico Police were present: East and West Cocalico townships and Adamstown and Denver boroughs.

Two issues provoked much discussion. First, the police arbitrator’s report is not back. This report is for a four-year agreement, ending in 2016.

"Neither side is holding anything up," said Corporal Darrick Keppley, president of the Police Association. "Each side’s attorney (the police and the township) has signed off. Now the arbitrator is writing the report and checking all details."

Keppley and Mark Hiester, East Cocalico township manager, each indicated that their respective attorneys know about the police coverage issue and the deadlines involved with the situation.

East Cocalico Police are operating without a new police contract. Officers have agreed to take no raises in 2014, although the arbitrator’s decision most likely will award a percentage raise for 2013.

Keppley said that salary was not the sticking point. Previously, he indicated that health coverage was an impasse issue.

The second issue, how to handle the unfunded police pension balance of $2.291 million, has been questioned by all three municipalities who previously operated under police contractual agreements with East Cocalico Township.

"Denver Council is on record as not willing to accept the unfunded pension liability. It’s a deal breaker," Mike Hession, Denver borough manager, said.

Noelle Fortna, East Cocalico supervisor and meeting chairwoman, explained that the $2.291 million "does not need paid all at once. It can be paid down gradually."

That pension number is the amount needed if every officer decided to retire tomorrow. It’s not unusual for police forces, as well as business and industry, to have an unfunded balance.

"If we don’t do the (pension) liability, will our buy-in costs for a proposed regional department be higher?" asked Hession.

"Assets and liabilities will both go on. You take the good with the bad," Fortna replied.

West Cocalico officials said their solicitor, Larry Maier, indicated the unfunded pension liability would be part of the East Cocalico regional agreement if that is the direction they choose.

"If you’re really serious about forming a regional department you should eat the pension fund liability," Hession said to Fortna.

Mike Gensemer, Denver council member and finance committee chairman, said that East Cocalico Township has met all police board requests. East Cocalico has:

* Extended until Oct. 31, the termination deadline when municipalities need to notify East Cocalico Township if they’re terminating their agreement for police coverage by East Cocalico Police Department.

* Agreed to continue the old contract in 2014 so there is time to form a regional police force and a police commission with equal representation from each municipality.

* Drafted a service proposal for 2014.

* Drafted a 2014 police budget.

"East Cocalico officials approved and sent paperwork to the state stating their desire to study a regional police force," said Gensemer. We (Denver, Adamstown and West Cocalico) need to get on the stick and also do this."

The state needs to see paperwork from each municipality who desires to study a regional police force.

"For too long we’ve sat back and left East Cocalico have the ball," said Gensemer. "We need to get into the game."

Most people in the 70 member audience applauded Gensemer’s comments.

Applause also followed Gensemer’s comments to Hession asking why Hession was looking for answers to questions such as how the unfunded police pension liability will be handled.

"That’s why we are meeting," said Gensemer. "That’s why we formed this police board to discuss these issues. Why do we need to resolve these issues in two weeks when East Cocalico has agreed to give us a year to discuss this?"

"This is because," said Hession, "if we continue in 2014, we’re putting the wheels on this to go into a regional department with East Cocalico. We don’t know if Northern Regional will still be an option for us in 2014. That’s why the numbers presented by East Cocalico are important."

Municipal officials discussed the budget information received regarding 2013 expenses, the draft 2014 budget and 2014 costs allocated to East Cocalico Township, West Cocalico Township, Adamstown and Denver boroughs.

"Since this meeting is two days before East Cocalico Supervisors meet," Fortna said, "we could not vote to approve the proposed 2014 police budget."

"That’s why," Fortna continued, "each municipality has a letter signed by the East Cocalico supervisors stating that these numbers are firm."

Cindy Schweitzer, Adamstown Borough Council’s finance chairwoman was the first of several municipal officers to thank East Cocalico Township officials for all of their work put into pulling together the proposed budget numbers.

"We appreciate your work," Schweitzer said, "and I’m not sure if it will be enough."

"Those numbers are firm. They are not going to change," East Cocalico Manager Mark Hiester said after the meeting.

The proposed 2014 police services costs represent a 12.3 percent overall decrease in costs from 2013.

"We have two less officers this year because we have not replaced the two sergeants who retired last year. In the first quarter of next year, two officers are retiring and we’re not replacing them," Police Chief George Beever commented.

With reduction in the total number of officers, equipment and equipment replacement costs are also reduced.

The department is looking to restructure shifts after the first quarter of next year.

Keppley explained how the change in shift hours would look as far as number of people and cars on the road. There would be no change in the 24-hour police coverage currently provided to all municipalities.

Keppley detailed how East Cocalico has cars out on the road during shift changes, what hours and data analysis make a shift a "power shift," and how the roaming patrol car works. It was a lot of information for municipal officials to digest.

"It all works," said Keppley. "You have to run it to truly understand how it all fits together and works."

During public comment, Doug Mackley, chairman of the East Cocalico supervisors, thanked municipal representatives at the table for their work on this issue. Mackley urged West Cocalico supervisors, who attended the meeting for information only, and are not officially joining the board until after talking with their solicitor, to "get on board."

With agenda topics exhausted, budget numbers explained, and other discussions not part of the agenda completed, the meeting adjourned.

Another police board meeting date was not set.

"You (East Cocalico officials) can call the meeting," said Terry Sheetz, West Cocalico Township supervisor.

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