Cocalico police board resumes meetings

By on July 29, 2015

Working with the continued goal of having a new regional police force organization up and running by Jan. 1, the Cocalico police board met Thursday, July 23, at East Cocalico Municipal Building.
East Cocalico Supervisor Noelle Fortna, who serves as board chair, said the time between the last meeting on April 23rd was used “to exchange information.”
Denver Council representatives and East Cocalico supervisors met June 1 and June 22.
On June 30 letters with costs for one year of police service in 2016, with the option of a multi-year contract left open, were sent to Adamstown borough and West Cocalico Township. Respective contract costs were $232,594.16 for Adamstown and $803,333.89 for West Cocalico Township.
These costs represent an eight percent increase over the 2014 budgets, the last year that the Minimal Municipal Obligation, also known as MMO or police pension payment, was proportionately split.
In 2015 East Cocalico Township, paid all of the MMO and in 2016 the supervisors agreed to pay 75 percent. These measures were to support and aid the forming of a regional police board.
Budgeting for the MMO payment is tricky because the state doesn’t tell a municipality what its minimum obligation for the year is until December.
Dean Johnson, Adamstown mayor and chairman of the Fire and Safety Committee, sent correspondence asking for two items by Aug. 7: Five-year (2016-2020) projected costs for services and a draft copy of the contract/agreement.
West Cocalico’s return correspondence asks for two things by Aug. 3: A written, detailed, police scope of service, including number of officers on the force and complete police budget breakdown.
Discussion of the requested items was thorough and covered a lot of ancillary issues. West Cocalico’s scope of service inquiry can be supplied; Cpl. Darrick Keppley has worked on this. Chief George Beever and Officer Jonathan Zaun, who attended as Keppley was not available, indicated some pieces may need to be updated and then it could be sent out.
Regarding Adamstown’s request for five-year cost projections, board members agreed that customarily over the last decade increases have averaged about 6 percent.
“Let’s not forget there’s going to be a blip in 2017 because that’s when each municipality will be assessed their proportional share of the police pension costs since East is paying more than their fair share in 2016,” said Denver Borough Manager Mike Hession. “Also, this board will not be the regional police board.”
“We don’t exist as a regional police department, so how do we project costs for something that doesn’t exist?” said Mike Gensemer, Denver vice president.
“How do you project what gas will cost five years from now?” asked Doug Mackley, East Cocalico supervisor chairman, who was in the audience.
“Keep in mind we’re being asked for a projection, not a hard number,” said John Weaver, a Denver resident on the board.
“I don’t want to cheapen public safety,” said Mackley. “Police costs are less for a family than cable TV.”
Ray Burns, the citizen-at-large appointee to the police board, spoke about the community policing that now occurs.
“We have 24/7 coverage in all sectors,” he said. “That means that Adamstown now receives, and would continue to receive 24/7 coverage in their sector if they contracted service in 2016.
“Most likely other departments are offering a multi-year contract. That makes better business sense than one year due to personnel and equipment needed.”
Other departments are also charging to prepare quotes for service. Some departments have buy-in costs and costs involved if/when a municipality exits. These types of costs make the decision to leave an unlikely one once a municipality signs on. The Police Board has none of these extra costs attached.
While West Cocalico Township and Adamstown officials have stated that they will be comparing costs, many citizens of these municipalities attended meetings over the last year to indicate that “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.” They did not desire to “nickel and dime” public safety, and gave examples of how quick police response times saved lives. Ambulance personnel testified to the life-saving advantage of East Cocalico Police, who often arrive first at an emergency.
Consensus was reached that enough discussion occurred for written responses to Adamstown and West Cocalico’s requests.
Hession asked whether there was an advantage to the advisory board review the draft charter.
Weaver asked Hession if he’d looked the draft over and saw anything needing change.
“I think there are some things we might want to discuss,” Hession responded.
“We’ve been reviewing it,” said Mark Hiester, East Cocalico manager. “I don’t know that there’s anything the attorneys couldn’t change.”
There was no decisive conclusion to the proposed contract discussion, although Gensemer, Weaver, and Mackley all stated their desire to have one police department covering the Cocalico Area School District. Gensemer indicated the board’s willingness to welcome West Cocalico and Adamstown back to the table if they are interested in pursuing some details expressed in their letters instead of being service contractors.
Weaver agreed and added examples such as “a renter doesn’t ask to see his landlord’s budget.”
East Cocalico resident and police board member Dr. Ken McCrea reminded everyone that once the police budget is passed it is public information and anyone can look at it.
The next police board meeting will be Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. at the East Cocalico Municipal Building, 100 Hill Road, Denver.

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