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Police force remains a question in Lawrence
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
By Wendy Lynn Brion Staff Writer
The Lawrence Township Supervisors fielded questions about the police force and use of Marcellus shale impact money during last night's supervisors meeting.
Bill Ogden of Mount Joy first asked when the township was going to fill the eighth position left open by the retirement of former Chief Jeff Fink. Chairman Glenn Johnston explained the supervisors were waiting until after the November general election and the decision on the ballot initiative before making any decisions.
A question will appear on the ballot asking township residents if they would be willing to pay higher taxes in order to increase the police force and help with other emergency costs.
Ogden responded that he had understood the township would keep eight officers and add more if the referendum were passed. He said he doubts the referendum will go through because no one wants to pay higher taxes, especially in this economy. Ogden said in the past Fink had stated they needed at least nine officers to fully staff shifts, preferably more.
Ogden then thanked the supervisors for their stewardship of resources but now the Marcellus shale impact fees are about to be distributed to municipalities and those monies could be used to increase police protection. He said he understands the money will come to the township in December and he contacted the state Department of General Services and was told the township will receive between $850,000 to $992,000 this year, and about $500,000 to $600,000 next year. He added that House Bill 1950 says municipalities can use the money for law enforcement among other things and he suggested the supervisors create a five year plan to reconstitute the police force with a goal of 10 full time officer and two part time officers. "We've got to rebuild that police force."
Johnston replied that he doesn't recall Fink saying nine officers would be able to cover two officers per shift but that Fink had said nine officers would be preferable to eight. Regardless, he said that they haven't seen the money yet and are reluctant to spend it first. "When the money is here, we will decide how best to spend it." He noted that the state created the bill to give some of the money to the municipalities and they can change how much the municipalities get. Johnston explained that the township cannot budget on money that is a "maybe," only on tax revenue. Another concern is that the price of gas is down and gas companies are pulling out of the state and the amount of money will probably be less.
"Once that money comes in, the board will take into consideration the urgent needs," he said.
In regards to the budget, Johnston pointed out how much costs have gone up in the past 3 ½ years, including gas, oil, electricity, etc.
Supervisor Ed Brown added that the township has talked about creating a capital reserve fund and that is something that could be used as a funding tool for the future. He noted that the township also carries a high debt load, which must also be taken into consideration.
Both Johnston and Brown said that the public has been invited to attend budget meetings in the past and will always be welcome because the supervisors would appreciate any input the public, especially business people, have on creating a sound budget, but no one wants to get involved. "I understand your point," Johnston said to Ogden, "And I understand your frustration."
Also under public comment, the supervisors talked to Jim Alsop who lives in Longmeadow. Alsop said he wants to build a shed in his back yard and already poured the concrete footer. He then went to the code enforcement officer for a building permit and learned that his structure didn't meet the required setbacks. The building will only be three feet away from his back property line and side property line, and the setback is 30 feet. The supervisors said he will need to set up a meeting with the zoning hearing board for a variance. There are also costs associated with the hearing of about $350 plus half the cost of advertising and Alsop said he was OK with that.
The supervisors opened bids on winter road materials. The low bid for 1,800 tons of 1B limestone was $15.45 per ton from Mike Beaver. A lower bid came in from Woodland Equipment Supply, but the company forgot to include a bid bond with their paperwork and so the bid had to be rejected. The low bid for 1,200 tons of 6S antiskid at $14.17 per ton from Bucktail Excavators.
In other business:
  • the leaf pick up schedule will from Oct. 22 to Nov. 21. After that, leaves will still be picked up if they are bagged.
  • a letter of resignation from Tom Stojeck from the Clearfield-Lawrence Joint Airport Authority was received and the township will advertise the vacancy.
  • Supervisor Bill Lawhead said they will start smoke testing sewer lines in the Country Club area soon. He noted the smoke is non-toxic, should it come into a home.
  • the township is also going to repair some catch basins in Goldenrod. Two were repaired, two will be cleaned out and 15 need raised and have bike safe grates installed.
    An executive session concerning personnel was held after the meeting with no action taken.

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