It’s personal, after all…West Cocalico supervisor notes issues with East Cocalico counterparts

By on September 16, 2015

 

As the saga of a Cocalico area regional police force unfolded over the past couple of years, and especially in the past few months, many observers speculated that personalities factored into decision making of the various municipalities involved.

That speculation turned into reality at the Tuesday, Sept. 15, meeting of the West Cocalico Township when Supervisor James J. Stoner, the board’s representative to the regional police board and point man for police coverage negotiations, made a stunning statement:

“I have no complaint with (Chief) George Beever or the police officers, my problem is with the supervisors in East Cocalico.”

Stoner made the statement during a back-and-forth with West Cocalico citizens. They oppose the supervisors decision, made at the Sept. 3 meeting, to contract with Ephrata Borough for police coverage, effective Jan. 1.

Photo by Donna Reed Citizens made their voices heard at the Sept. 15 meeting of the West Cocalico supervisors.

Photo by Donna Reed
Citizens made their voices heard at the Sept. 15 meeting of the West Cocalico supervisors.

“The most disturbing thing I’ve heard is your saying that ‘I have personal issues with East Cocalico’,” countered citizen Elaine Bowman to Stoner. “In your personal business, you can do that, but when dealing with the public business of West Cocalico, you need to put personal issues aside and do what is best for the pocketbooks of West Cocalico residents.

“You need to be more objective.”

Though discussion of the police coverage contract was not listed on the formal agenda, it quickly dominated the meeting when Supervisor Chair Jacque Smith opened the floor for public comment.

Ray Burns, a retired East Cocalico police officer running unopposed for the West Cocalico supervisor seat to be vacated by Smith, asked the board if it had received a counterproposal for coverage from East Cocalico and how it compared with the Ephrata Borough proposal.

Stoner replied that on the afternoon of Sept. 8, apparently after a specially convened mid-afternoon East Cocalico supervisors meeting in which Supervisors Alan Fry and Noelle Fortna voted to bring a counter offer to West Cocalico, Fry showed up about 3:30 p.m. at Stoner’s business on Route 272.

Stoner said he spent nearly an hour with Fry who presented him a primarily hand-written letter signed only by Fry which was characterized as a counterproposal.

Stoner said he was skeptical on several counts: one was the informality of the missive signed only by Fry, the second was the timing of the visit, and most importantly the numbers included did not take into account any concessions that may have been made by police representatives as their meeting was not set until Sept. 10.

Adamstown Borough was scheduled to vote later that day, Sept. 8, on a police contract. Since West Cocalico had given the nod to Ephrata Borough, it was likely that Adamstown would do the same. Ephrata officials had earlier told Adamstown coverage was contingent on West Cocalico coming on board.

Adamstown officials did, in fact, on Sept. 8 agree to contract coverage with Ephrata Borough.

Stoner said he believed Fry presented the offer for “East Cocalico to save face.” Stoner also said there had been time in prior months and the clock was running out for Ephrata Borough and its police force to hire new officers in preparation for expanded coverage.

Despite the West Cocalico supervisors’ decision, citizens Tuesday morning disputed the idea that Ephrata Borough coverage would be cheaper than that of East Cocalico which had provided coverage for nearly three decades.

At issue, contended citizens, would be the need for a substation, start-up costs for coverage, possible overages for overtime for officers, and lack of “say” at the table regarding police coverage.

Stoner said that, over five years, the cost of Ephrata Borough coverage will be less than that of East Cocalico.

When peppered with follow-up questions inferring a lack of fiscal responsibility on the part of the supervisors, Stoner responded:

“If I wanted to go to the extreme to save money, we would have gone to the Pennsylvania State Police,” he said. “That wouldn’t cost anything.”

Indeed, Stoner said he had two conversations with a PSP official, but was uncomfortable about response times that were far longer than either Ephrata Borough or East Cocalico.

In the end, Smith brought the debate to a close noting the decision was made, but disgruntlement on the citizens’ part was clear.

“It seems there were a lot of big deals here,” said Bowman, “but a lot of little people.”

In other business, the supervisors:

* Heard a complaint by Burns regarding the condition of the railroad crossing on Main Street in Reinholds. Norma Enck, former township manager, said it was last repaired on her watch but only after getting the state Public Utilities Commission to intercede with the railroad company. Carolyn Hildebrand, current township manager, said she was working on correcting the situation, but agreed on the complexity of it.

* Approved a memorandum of understanding with the Lancaster County Conservation District.

* Approved a sketch plan for the reconstruction of perimeter streets for the property of Scheetz which involved the exclusion of sidewalks and curbing consistent with both sides of Short Road. Scheetz recused himself from the vote.

* Approved the Stevens Court Final plan with certain modifications.

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