At a time when regionalized police forces are becoming more common, Lower Nazareth Supervisors are having second thoughts about their participation in the Colonial Region Police Department. They like the service, but not the cost. They've already rejected a $3.39 million police budget proposed for next year. This operates as a notice of intent to withdraw in a year if the problems remain unresolved. Whether that occurs was the topic of a police commission meeting on December 12, attended by several officers concerned about their livelihoods.
The sticking point? This budget calls for a $1,122,450 contribution from Lower Nazareth, which is $44,481 more than this year.
This six-member board includes two members from Bath Borough as well as Lower Nazareth and Hanover Townships. Chaired by Glenn Walbert, they provide the oversight for a 25-man force that has existed since 1995. Commission member Eric Nagle, who chairs the Lower Nazareth Board, explained that his Township wants "to go through an analysis to look at alternatives." He added, "We're backed into a 5% increase every year." While expressing admiration for the officers on the force, Nagle stated flatly, "We're not going to increase taxes to pay for police services," complaining that Lower Nazareth's additional revenue is eaten up by increased police costs. He also objected to Chief Roy Seiple's plan to expand the force gradually to 30 police officers.
Nagle reasoned that a regionalized force should be more efficient. "The question is, is it still effective? That's what we need to analyze."
Nagle's concerns were echoed by Jim Pennington, another Lower Nazareth Supervisor doing double duty on the police commission. He suggested that the police department should consider employing part-time police officers or "public safety officers" for minimal duties like traffic control.
"We have to be creative when we come up with budgets," argued Pennington.
Both Pennington and Nagle agreed that Lower Nazareth has experienced an surge in police activity. That appears to be related to the Wal Mart, Kohls and Wegmans on Route 248. Chief Seiple pointed out that 13 of the 20 arrests in Lower Nazareth in November were for shoplifting at those stores.
With the shoplifting comes counterfeiting. Seiple said his officers broke up a Reading-based counterfeiting ring that was passing $100 bills at these stores.
Police board Chair Glenn Walbert, who serves on Hanover's Board of Supervisors, noted that Lower Nazareth did approve a budget that continued to fund of the Colonial Region Police Department at its 2013 level. He suggested reducing the police department's budget to the 2013 level, which could be accomplished by delaying the hire of a new police officer by four months.
Walbert told Nagle the commission is open to discussions with Lower Nazareth.
Seiple asked Nagle to request an answer from Lower Nazareth Supervisors as soon as is convenient, "so we don't keep officers in suspense for six months." Seiple warned, "We got these guys sitting here, and they're going to start looking for jobs."
Chief Seiple proposed doubling the storage fee for impounded vehicles, from $15 to $30 per day. That suggestion passed unanimously.
He also told the Commission that Wal Mart and Wegmans, when requesting police coverage, is billed $67 per hour for each officer.
Finally, he filled the Commission in on a recent prostitution sting at a local hotel that netted seven Johns.
"None that you know," he added.