West Cocalico will share SRO costs

By on November 7, 2018

West Cocalico supervisors approved a plan to share costs for a school resource officer (SRO) in the Cocalico School District in their Nov. 1 meeting. The East Cocalico police department will provide staff; East Cocalico PD’s Chief Darrick Keppley was there to answer questions.

Just a few years ago, West Cocalico and Adamstown Borough both dropped a contract with East Cocalico’s police department, a decades-long tradition, to get police services from Ephrata. Although Ephrata PD officers patrol the township, the SRO will be a member of the East Cocalico department, so West Cocalico and Adamstown will chip in.

West Cocalico supervisors reiterated that they are on board with approving the SRO, but asked about extra costs and overtime. Keppley said the department will work to limit overtime and most extras, for example, radios, would be handled internally by the department. He cited a coming 2.75 percent raise for police officers next year.

“We understand that year to year, this price is going to change a little bit,” said supervisor Jeff Sauder, asking about backup in case an SRO is not on duty on a given day or week. Keppley said senior staff will step in to fill the gap as well as possible. The SRO, he said, will patrol all Cocalico schools, including elementary schools.

Chairman J.J. Stoner estimated total costs for the SRO at around $140,000 annually; half of the full cost, he said, would be picked up by the school district on any given contract year. West Cocalico would pay 28.05 percent of the remainder based on a formula of counting students from each municipality in the district.

“This hasn’t been reviewed by the attorneys yet,” Stoner said, “but it will after this meeting.”

Later in the meeting, Ephrata PD Lt. Tom Shumaker gave a report for October, in which Ephrata PD responded to a total of 47 calls in the township, including one case of forgery of stolen checks and 14 traffic citations.

Shumaker also reported 10 noise/nuisance calls. The noise issue came up again later, when supervisors opened an agenda item regarding a “shoot” planned for Nov. 3 at 205 Fraelich Road.

Ethan Sensenig told board members he plans to host a shooting event on his property in which participants will try to blow up pumpkins with half-pound packages of tannerite, an explosive substance. He estimated the event would involve over two thousand rounds of ammunition.

“It’s just something planned for the end of the year,” Sensenig said. “It’ll be a lot more shooting than normal.”

Supervisors had concerns.

“Those birds are loose on the floor,” said supervisors vice chair Leon Eby, who is also a chicken farmer, of poultry houses in the area. “They can panic and pile up on each other and suffocate. I’d be concerned about it if it was close to me.”

Stoner went a lot further in describing the liability of such an event, even referencing the tragic shooting incident in East Cocalico in 2016 in which a nurse was shot in the neck while sitting in her kitchen from a bullet shot on a private property a mile away.

“This is life-altering here,” he said.

Noting the consequences against all of the shooters in the East Cocalico incident, Stoner went into detail about how the board must act to protect the rights of township residents and their animals.

“You’re going to force us to pass an ordinance that we’re going to shut you down,” Stoner said, adding that a noise ordinance has already been on supervisors’ minds for a long time. “We are responsible for the health, welfare and safety of these people.”

“It’s going to be the noise that comes out of that hollow (that will trigger police calls),” Sauder added.

Stoner also mentioned possible problems with lead mitigation and regulations from the state Department of Environmental Protection; township manager Carolyn Hildebrand agreed. Another major point Hildebrand raised was zoning: looking at the zoning of the intended parcel, the board saw that a shooting range is not currently a permitted use. That requires the property owner to go before the zoning hearing board.

Amid the litany of reasons why the pumpkin shoot is not welcomed by the township officials, Shumaker also weighed in from a police perspective.

“Tannerite is a big problem at this point,” he said. “A few bad people have set a bad example with tannerite.”

Sensenig agreed to read a zoning related letter and call the township with any questions.

In describing the context of their concerns about the shooting, board members talked about noise in general being a problem within the township. July 4, Sauder said, is always a flash point; with the newly approved types of fireworks allowed by the state, the board is forced to look at arguments from residents over what types of noise should be allowed.

Look for more on noise issues in future deliberations. Supervisors meet again Nov. 20.

Justin Stoltzfus is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review.

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