Police costs discussed in West Cocalico

By on June 15, 2011

By: KAREN SHUEY Review Staff kshuey.eph@lnpnews.com, Staff Writer

Steve Leed has some suggestions on how the East Cocalico Township police force may be able to cut their budget.

The West Cocalico Township resident showed up at the supervisor’s June 3 meeting armed with support from other community members "fed up" with the rising costs of police service.

At the public meeting Leed said he understood that a majority of the hike is being driven by increases in police salaries, which are under contract, and pensions, which are mandated by the state. But, he added, other items should be deferred in such economically-challenging times.

"West Cocalico shouldn’t have to contribute as much — East Cocalico has the traffic, they have the businesses," Leed told supervisors. "Something has got to be done because too many of the services are being duplicated."

Leed said that in financially tough times, there needs to be more discussion about ways to ease the burden on the taxpayers. Twenty-seven of his neighbors agreed.

Leed came prepared with a list of signatures from residents pleading with the supervisors to take a closer look at decreasing the hours under East Cocalico’s watch.

"Maybe it’s time we see if we really need police protection 24/7," he said.

Leed’s first suggestion was that the department cut back on additional costs that can be attributed to the department’s aging fleet of marked patrol cars. The force could do this, he said, by placing two men in one cruiser at night instead of giving each officer on duty his own vehicle.

"You save wear and tear on the fleet and it could even increase safety for officers who are making stops late at night," he said.

Leed said another option is for West Cocalico to hire its own police officer to handle matters specific the township, decreasing the amount of calls West Cocalico residents would make to East Cocalico police.

"That officer would take the load off the basic calls that come from the township," he explained. "He could handle the parking complaints, domestic calls — that sort of thing."

The final recommendation made by Leed to decrease costs would be to cut back on staffing. While making that move may increase response time and reduce the force’s ability to patrol the township, he said it should be "included in the discussion."

In addition to current cost woes, Leed shared his concern about a future expansion of the force’s headquarters as well.

"I don’t want to talk down on the police force or get a big target on my head for saying something, but let’s look at our options," Leed concluded.

Supervisor Terry Scheetz thanked Leed for his suggestions and said that rising police costs have been a major concern.

Officials and residents in West Cocalico, which has contracted police services from East Cocalico since 1986, were stunned last December when they were presented with a proposed police budget calling for a 12.2 percent increase.

Former West Cocalico Township manager Norma Enck had said the supervisors expected an increase of about 6 percent from their 2010 police bill of $771,245. Instead, the township’s bill was $877,942.

The 22-officer East Cocalico Township Police Department has existing contracts to serve East Cocalico and West Cocalico townships and Denver and Adamstown boroughs. The amount each municipality pays of the overall police budget is determined by the number of calls for service based on the previous year’s report and population.

East Cocalico police Chief George Beever, who was present at the meeting, said the department has cut discretionary funding as much as they can.

Beever said that the amount each resident actually ends up paying for police protection is much less than they expect, based on a survey he did a few years ago.

"People pay more for cable, trash service and newspaper subscriptions than they are paying for police service," he said.

As for Leed’s idea to assign two officer to one car, Beever said it wouldn’t work because the area the force covers is too expansive.

"Between 3 and 7 a.m. we have two cars out — it’s the minimum we can do it with the call volume we have," he told Leed.

Beever also pointed out that the state has cut its staff, and that response time would most likely increase if the township chose to discontinue service from East Cocalico.

"If someone has a life-threatening emergency at 4 in the morning and no one is there to respond or a state trooper is responding from Ephrata Township, I don’t know how pleased that person is going to be," he said.

In other news, supervisors accepted bids for road work this summer. They received a number of options for paving and seal coat construction from various companies, but in the end the lowest quotes came from Pennsy Supply and HRI Inc. Pennsy will charge $120,247 for paving work and HRI will provide seal coat work for $112,975. More POLICE, page A10

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