Back Mountain Community Partnership will no longer pursue regional police force

By Eileen Godin - | September 20th, 2016 2:47 pm

LEHMAN TWP. — A Back Mountain regionalized police force is not likely to form as four of the six participating municipalities have opted out of pursuing the idea.

Jackson Township is ‘in,’ John J. Wilkes Jr., the supervisor chairman from the municipality said at the Back Mountain Community Partnership meeting Sept. 15.

Dallas, Kingston, Franklin and Lehman townships have opted out of pursuing the regional police department study any further. Harveys Lake Borough, also a member of the BMCP, opted out of participating.

Dallas Borough has not officially announced its position, Borough Mayor Timothy J.Carroll said.

The Back Mountain Police Regionalization Study, developed by the Department of Community and Economic Development’s Governor’s Center for Local Government Services, was presented to the partnership in May 2016.

The study was designed to create a proposed plan on how six of the seven BMCP municipalities could create a regionalized police force.

The study revealed the 84.6 square-mile-region could be served by a police force of 32 full-time police officers, including a police chief, two lieutenants, four sergeants, two detectives and 23 officers.

The proposed budget for the regional police department is $3,235,100. Participating municipalities would finance the new police department based on a formula using a percentage of a town’s population, crime, square miles and road miles.

“The cost (to Jackson Township) was about $100,000 more a year than what we pay for coverage now,” Wilkes said before the meeting.

Wilkes said the township could not provide five on-duty police officers daily plus a police chief, sergeants and desk staff to the community.

“We couldn’t do that in a million years on our own,” he said.

Kate McMahon, of NEPA Alliance and administrator to the BMCP, said Lehman and Franklin townships opted out soon after the study was presented.

Lehman Township’s projected expense to fund the police force, which includes a police substation, would be $590,694.

Franklin Township, which currently has state police coverage, would have a cost of $256,584.

Representatives from Lehman and Franklin townships were unavailable for comment Thursday.

James Reino, supervisor chairman of Kingston Township, said supervisors agreed not to continue with the study since Dallas, Lehman and Franklin township opted out.

“Kingston Township was going to have to put up the majority of the assets,” Reino said in a prior interview. “We were willing to do that if others were going to participate. We believe in the regionalization.”

Dallas Township submitted a detailed letter, outlining several issues with the study prompting their withdrawal, which include the following.

• Current police pension fund surpluses and deficits were not answered.

.• The study listed the cost of police staff benefits as 35 percent of gross wages. The cost for township officers for family coverage is 40 percent. Social Security, life insurance, workers compensation and other factors raised the benefit cost to nearly 45 percent.

• The study stated Dallas Township would cover 40 percent of the costs of the regionalized police force, but would only provide the municipality with 25 percent representation on the new commission.

The next BMCP meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Back Mountain EMA building on Route 118 in Lehman Township.

Out of the six municipalities that participated in the Back Mountain Police Regional study, only one, Jackson Township, is ready to support the idea. of the six municipalities that participated in the Back Mountain Police Regional study, only one, Jackson Township, is ready to support the idea. Eileen Godin | Dallas Post

By Eileen Godin

Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.