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Township supports task force
Ephrata Township Supervisors have agreed to at least partial funding of the Lancaster County Drug Task Force.
Currently, funding for the task force is through assessments sent to each municipality. However, not all municipal groups appropriate funding, as was the case with Ephrata Township in 2013.
The task force recommends funding of a $1 per capita to eradicate the drug business from the county. Supervisors approved a contribution equal to 50 cents per capita, but also expressed openness to making a second contribution of equal size toward the end of fiscal 2014.
In approving the funding, supervisors were supportive of the work done by the task force, but were concerned that currently not all municipalities are being compelled to contribute. They feel that with local funding should also come a greater degree of local input, perhaps even to the point of creating a new group made up of local representatives to present input from their respective townships and boroughs to task force officials.
“If we are funding something, I would like some input,” stated Supervisor Clark Stauffer. “I’d like to see this. I feel everyone should be in on this; township supervisors and borough council people need to show unity on this. I just think we should see everyone contributing.”
Yet, in especially smaller or more rural townships, leaders don’t see a drug problem and do not see a need to provide funding.
“Some of those that are not contributing look at the report, see no task force activity and feel no activity should equate to no pay,” noted Supervisor Tyler Zerbe.
To that end, Ephrata Police Lt. Tom Shumaker explained that in most cases, local police patrol activity looks at the end user, whereas the task force is more focused on the distribution of drugs.
“They do give us good cooperation,” noted Shumaker. “I’d like to see a sharing of the assets in the municipality where (the crime) occurs but they also use the funding from (the sale of) those assets to help fund the program. They also do a lot of initiative activity which they report to us on.”
Township Manager Steve Sawyer added that Police Chief William Harvey indicated he gets monthly briefings from the task force.
Stauffer, however, was adamant about seeing some degree of accountability tied to local funding.
“I don’t like seeing something that’s going downhill,” said Stauffer. “But without funding, by 2018, this could no longer be around. I’d rather see this building up. When I am spending money I like to see accountability and a closer look. Even on the southern end of the county, they are getting their drugs somewhere.”
Yet despite pressing hard for greater accountability and even for a meeting with Lancaster County D.A. Craig Stedman, who oversees the program, Stauffer was clear in his support of the effort.
“I think this is a good program. I really do,” said Stauffer.
The township did not fund the task force in 2013 due to an extremely tight budget and not out of a lack of support for the program. Sawyer recommended supervisors approve 2014 funding at 50 cents per capita. Zerbe agreed, adding that perhaps with ample funds coming from the refund from the 2013 police contract, supervisors could revisit the matter late in the year.
“I can support Ty’s motion,” Supervisor John Weber weighed in. “I’d also like to see some representative from the task force come talk to us over the coming month to give us some report. I’d like to see them appear at a meeting so that we can ask some direct questions.”
For additional information on Ephrata Township, visit their new website at www.ephratatownship.org.
Gary P. Klinger is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review and welcomes your questions and feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.