Over and out…West Cocalico supervisors nix police coverage by East in 2016

By on August 19, 2015

 

While there’s been uncertainty for some time over what department would provide police coverage for West Cocalico Township next year, there is now one sure thing: it won’t be East Cocalico Township.

In a unanimous decision Tuesday, supervisors voted to respond to a letter sent them by East Cocalico. In the response, the supervisors will say they are no longer interested in continuing coverage by the department.

It was back in June that West Cocalico supervisors appeared to shut the door on East Cocalico as they and Adamstown borough officials dropped out of protracted and problematic regional police talks.

However, the East Cocalico supervisor chair and the Denver mayor, representatives of the remaining participants in what had been that regional police board, sent letters dated June 30 to both Adamstown and West Cocalico providing figures for police coverage. The cost of East Cocalico coverage for West in 2016 was quoted as $803,333.89.

“While this price is not directly solicited by WCT, you may consider it an offer from ECT and Denver to permit further coverage of WCT by the East Cocalico Police Department,” the letter stated. A response deadline of Sept. 1 was set.

Supervisor James J. Stoner who has been the board’s key representative in police coverage talks said he was not sure why the specific deadline was noted, but said the cost quoted by East was just too high.

“I’ve entertained (been in touch with) all the police departments neighboring West Cocalico,” said Stoner, “and East Cocalico is the most expensive short term and long term. That’s it.”

Stoner moved and Supervisor Terry Scheetz seconded sending the letter to reject the offer and terminate coverage, effective Dec. 31, 2015. Chairman Jacque Smith supported the motion which was approved unanimously.

Stoner said the supervisors and their solicitor, Larry B. Maier, would convene in executive session to discuss legal points in the proposals for police coverage. Though specifics were not provided, Stoner did acknowledge that coverage discussions have occurred with three departments: Northern Lancaster Regional, Ephrata Borough, and Spring Township (Berks County).

The supervisors’ action did not sit well with Ray Burns of West Cocalico, the citizen-at-large appointee to the police board who is also a retired East Cocalico police officer.

“Is there the intent by the board to have an open public meeting to discuss the police contract?” he asked the supervisors.

“I have no comment as to that at this time,” Stoner responded.

“Will the public have the opportunity to review and make comments on the contract?” Burns continued, asking that the public be able to see and study comparative proposals.

Burns also said it was important that the public have adequate time to digest the various findings.

The bantering between Burns, who is running unopposed for the supervisor’s seat being vacated by Smith at the year’s end, and Stoner continued for 20 minutes or so.

Maier interjected that the public will have the opportunity to comment on any potential contract as the action on it will be taken at a public meeting on which it appears on the agenda.

Burns again asked the public be supplied with information in advance to evaluate the numbers.

“I’d be comfortable reviewing the proposals,” said Burns.

“I’m sure you would as a retired East Cocalico police officer,” responded Stoner. “I had to beg for everything from East Cocalico &tstr; I’ve entertained all the police departments around here and it’s all been very good and educational.

“All the information I’ve ever requested from East Cocalico is never offered freely. I have to write right-to-know requests for everything.

“You entrusted us (as supervisors) to look into this (police coverage) and you really don’t trust us.”

Stoner then asked for Maier’s opinion regarding releasing specifics of various proposals.

“I’m happy to do that,” he said. “Depending on what the considerations are, well, I’ll have to do more research.”

After the supervisors adjourned to their executive session for discussion on “legal aspects of police contracts” and possible litigation on the Sandy Hill Road bridge, Burns said he plans to file right-know-requests with the West Cocalico supervisors for the proposed contract information.

In other business, the board:

* Appointed Henry Freed as replacement for the vacancy chair position. The post was held by the late Terry Bergman.

* Approved the Schoeneck Fire Police assisting with the Ephrata Fair Parade on Sept. 23.

* Gave township Manager Carolyn Hildebrand the OK to move forward on requiring the removal of an illegally constructed driveway on Shober Dam Road.

Hildebrand said the property owner was denied a permit to build the 200-foot driveway due to line-of-sight issues and drainage problems related to grading.

While she declined to name the owner, the property is a deep residential lot that fronts both Gockley and Shober Dam roads. The home which sits near Gockley is accessed by a driveway there. The new driveway runs through a woods to the rear of the property exiting on to Shober Dam Road.

Hildebrand said if the illegal driveway is not removed by the owner, the township will demolish it and place a lien against the property to recoup the cost.

* Approved the purchase of new play equipment for the Main Street Park. The total cost of $11,957.10 is offset courtesy of funding by Sunoco and the Fritztown Fire Company.

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