Broad Top Township Supervisors Donald Black and chairman Donald Hedge Jr. this week agreed to consider contracting with Saxton Borough to provide police services in the township through an existing intermunicipal agreement both municipalities share.
The borough and neighboring Liberty Township Supervisors are currently in negotiations to renew a similar agreement between those municipalities. The matter was discussed in a recent workshop between the two municipalities.
Along with Black and Hedge, representing the borough was council member Larry Miller, council president Lester Meck and borough Mayor Alan Smith. Also present was borough police chief Fred Chadwick and police officer Dave Buseck.
Hedge stated that he spoke with Bedford County Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) officials who encouraged township officials to pursue an agreement of this type. Hedge and Black both agreed that they, along with fellow supervisor Bryan Melius would have to not only review the finances involved for such a project, but also seek the opinions of township residents who tax dollars would pay for the police services.
“While this is something we might want to do, it’s more than a matter of jumping into it with both feet. There are a lot of important facts to consider including whether it would even work at all,” said Hedge.
Hedge expressed concern over the hours both Chadwick and Buseck spend as student resource officers (SRO) for the Tussey Mountain School District. Buseck is a full time SRO at the Tussey Mountain High School while Chadwick spends four hours per day at the Tussey Mountain Elementary School.
Smith said the borough also has the services of officers Eric Calhoun and Logan Tornatore who each work different shifts. When school is closed during the summer, Smith said Buseck is available for more hours during that three-month period.
Meck provided the township with the borough’s police budget and what types of funding would be needed to make such a proposal feasible for both municipalities. Both Meck and Smith both agreed that maintaining a police force is expensive and takes many resources.
While the borough has been fortunate to be the recipient of several United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grants to help subsidize some of its purchased equipment including its two police cruisers, tazers and a computer system, its affiliation with the township has cost it some USDA funds in the past. Hedge questioned if the same would happen with a potential affiliation with Broad Top Township.
Meck said he is unsure if it would be a loss or a gain since the township is eligible for Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) monies. But the municipal leaders were also unsure if any grant monies could fund police services.
Meck said perhaps the township could consult with the state to see if any funding expended on PSP providing services in the township could be redirected to finance municipal police services.
Again, Hedge said there are many uncertainties including whether the township would be able to find the finances needed to make such an agreement possible. “We want to be good neighbors, but we must have the ability to make it work out,” he added.
Buseck said he is aware there have been similar past agreements between municipalities that simply didn’t work out. Hedge agreed and said each must tread cautiously before agreeing to something that could just cause problems.
Hedge said he is pleased with the professionalism and past experience Chadwick brings to the Saxton Police force. Equally, he said with the others, they make a great law enforcement team.
Smith said there have been some differences in the past with Liberty Township officials, but that all involved have made efforts to work past those differences and do what is right for residents of their respective communities. However, Smith said Liberty Township is unable to expend funds on police services as they have in the past and the borough must look to other sources of revenue to make up the difference.
Fortunately, Meck said the borough has sources of income to finance different aspects of its day-to-day operations such as its water system. He noted the source of income the borough is receiving from timber cutting on Saxton Mountain and what those funds can be used for.
Chadwick said borough police answer an average of between 30 and 40 calls per month in the borough and Liberty Township. Smith said the township would also be receiving ordinance enforcement services as part of an intermunicipal police agreement.
Hedge also expressed concern about the vastness of the township stating that it covers roughly 87 square miles. However, he said many of the problems occur within the small towns that encompass the township.
He said that having Magisterial District Judge Brian Baker’s office in the township has been a substantial benefit. The presence of more law enforcement in the area makes people think twice in how they act and react, he said.
Chadwick said the municipalities could initially try it to see if it would work before jumping into a full fledge agreement. It was agreed by all that a spirit of cooperation exists between all area municipalities because in today’s time, it is needed.
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