Adamstown walks from Cocalico police negotiations

By on May 13, 2015

At their May 5 meeting, Adamstown officials moved to withdraw from the Cocalico regional police process due to the proposed cost-sharing percentages of the liabilities.

The motion was carried 6-1 with Councilman Joe Dietrich opposing because he wanted to continue to negotiate with East Cocalico.

East Cocalico Township supervisors recently asked Adamstown to give a simple “yes” or “no” answer to their question if Adamstown is interested in moving forward with the regional police force department. Adamstown had clarifying questions they proposed to East Cocalico as to how the liabilities will be divided now that there are three versus four municipalities involved, since West Cocalico Township pulled out.

East Cocalico officials said the liabilities would be divided between the remaining participants. Further inquiry by Adamstown indicated the percentage shared of the liabilities will increase to Adamstown, Denver, and East Cocalico, to cover the funding loss of the fourth-West Cocalico.

“I cannot continue my support based on three participants,” said Adamstown Councilwoman Cindy Schweitzer. “I was elected to represent the tax payers of this borough.”

Josele Cleary, Adamstown borough solicitor, was in attendance.

“I don’t see how any municipality looking to make a decision that is going to include assuming liabilities in the neighborhood of $4 million unfunded liability…which you don’t know what your percentage is,” said Cleary. “How can anyone say yes when you don’t know what you’re assuming?”

“It’s like buying a house. If you’re going to buy a house and someone tells you, we’re not going to charge you anything for the house, you just have to assume the mortgage, well, if you don’t know how much the mortgage is and you don’t know what the payments will be, would you agree to take over that house and that mortgage? At this point, that’s where you’re at,” Cleary said.

Adamstown borough officials tried to get specific numbers from East Cocalico.

“After our meeting last week, after it was closed, I specifically asked Noelle (Fortna, East Cocalico supervisor) about negotiating further and about additional information,” said Randy Good, council president. “She told me ‘You have the information and we need to make a decision’…This is like agreeing to a blank check…Everybody keeps telling me the numbers aren’t correct, the numbers are too high, but it’s amazing, all the people who say the numbers aren’t correct do not give me any numbers to dispute.”

Council did not solicit comments or questions from the public. After the decision was made, half the audience, some 40, walked out in anger. Some congregated in the parking lot.

The council committee looking at alternative police services has had meetings with Brecknock Township and Spring Township, both in Berks County. Members are also looking at other alternatives.

Mayor Dean Johnson recently had a meeting with the police chief and sheriff at Spring Township. He said they are very interested in picking up Adamstown for police services.

“It would be very easy for them to do that since we border their township lines,” said Johnson.

Spring Township is comparable to Manheim Township and is known to be more sophisticated. The police complex is more state-of-the-art than East Cocalico with jail cells, interrogation rooms, school officers, 40 detectives on duty, and 30 vehicles (six being unmarked).

“They also indicated their response time from Spring could be very quick,” said Johnson. “Their average response time, which would include Adamstown, would be under four minutes.

“To say the least, I left there very impressed. We’re looking for some good numbers coming from that. We’ll be meeting again May 13. Spring said they don’t see any problem with Adamstown being in Lancaster and not Berks.”

The committee to explore different police options has also contacted police departments from other areas in the state who cover multiple counties.

“The feedback is that it works well for them and they cover more than two counties, so they don’t know why it can’t work for two,” Johnson said.

Adamstown has long-term working agreements with Spring Township which “have worked well.” Many Adamstown residents are more Berks County-oriented than they are to Lancaster since they are closer to Reading than they are to Lancaster.

By the end of the meeting, hope was in the air. Spring Township is already a “well-oiled machine,” said Johnson. They’d start off with “fresh, positive relationships instead of getting off to a bad start.”

In other business:

* Good and Hanover Engineering met with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Commission about the replacement of the trump line which is located from the Mad Hatter to the sewage treatment plant. A few of the properties have transferred easements to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife. An area of 135 acres of Rose Hill is also in the process of being transferred.

“We are working with them and request moving the sewer line to another spot in the wetlands in order to get further away from the stream and further away from the bog turtle habitat,” Good said.

“One of the things they proposed is an alternative route and putting pump stations in the whole way. A Hanover engineering representative told them it would cost $3 to $4 million.”

Construction could start in 2017, but they are a way from getting a permit to replace the line until they look at studies and do further research. Currently, piping in some areas is exposed.

* Mohn’s Hill Church, Berks County, has made a $1,000 donation toward the development of Celebration Park in the Adamstown Brookview Development to be used towards playground equipment.

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