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Community Rallies Behind Police Department
Written by Bradley Schlegel Staff Reporter

                Local residents rallied behind the Upper Perk Police District at Monday night's town hall meeting, criticizing a decision by East Greenville officials to withdraw from the region's joint police commission. However, those same officials were conspicuously absent from the meeting, hosted by state Sen. Bob Mensch (R-24th District) and state Rep. Justin Simmons (R-131st District).

                Several speakers at the meeting objected to the method by which East Greenville's elected officials voted to terminate the contract that establishes the commission with Pennsburg. The Sept. 6 vote followed an hour-long executive session and the issue was not included on the public meeting agenda.

                The borough will withdraw from the commission at 12:01 a.m. March 6, 2017.

                None of East Greenville's elected officials have expounded, beyond a statement read prior to the vote, on their decision to end the relationship with the neighboring municipality. On Sept. 8, the Town & Country newspaper sent the mayor and six members of borough council an email with a series of questions seeking clarity on the consequences of the vote, an explanation for the timing of the legislative process and details related to future police coverage in the borough. 

                Sloyer and Council member Joe Arahill each responded the same day. Both said, "No comment."

                At Monday's meeting, held in the auditorium of the Upper Perkiomen High School, Mensch asked the audience if anyone from East Greenville Borough Council was in attendance, but no one responded. Pennsburg Borough Council was represented at the meeting by Council President Kris Kirkwood; council members Bruce Lord, Cody Belmont, Diane Stevens and Bob Seville; and Mayor Vicki Lightcap.

                However, Sloyer was featured on regional television Monday night. Sloyer, interviewed on WFMZ, told a reporter his borough can't afford the rising costs of running a joint police force.

                "We've had trouble trying to run the business with our partner," Sloyer said during the segment, which runs 2 minutes, 36 seconds and is posted on the station's website. "We've been trying to get them to understand financials. It hasn't worked so far. They haven't cared."

                Everyone who walked to the microphone at Monday's town hall meeting expressed their opposition to East Greenville leaving the commission.

                When Tim Rafterty described the department as the best in the nation, his comments received an ovation from the crowd of more than 360 people.  "The officers are doing a fantastic job," said Raferty, an East Greenville resident. "This is a horrible thing."

                Nearly all of the 26 speakers at the event echoed Raftery's comments.

                Ed Buchinski, owner of the Grand Theater in East Greenville, called the decision "mind boggling," and James Bruncklin, a Pennsburg resident, called it "unfathomable."

                Doug Bishop, the owner of Mario's Pizza in East Greenville, said he was not in favor of the decision, which could lead to the disbandment of the department.  "My heart aches over what happened to our community seven to 10 days ago," Bishop said.

                With similar unanimity, those speakers praised the efforts of the officers. 

                Robert Seville, a retired police officer as well as a member of Pennsburg Borough Council and the Upper Perk Police Commission, described the unit as one of the best police departments in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania and the nation.

                "They are the greatest," said Ed Hummel, who works at a bus company in East Greenville. "How can we let that go?"

                Chris Baccari, an Upper Hanover resident, who told the audience he spent 15 years serving as a police officer in a borough of 11,000 people, called the Upper Perk Police District a proactive police department.

                "We need those outstanding officers," said Doug Criddle, an East Greenville resident who ran unsuccessfully for council last year and is planning another run in 2017. "They are part of our communities."

                According to Lon Brinckman, the officers are fully vested in the community. "They are coaches and role models," said Brinkman, a firefighter and 38-year resident of East Greenville.

Several speakers stated that the department plays a key role in combating the heroin and opioid addiction in the Upper Perkiomen Valley.

                "Drug addicts love what is going on," said Gerry Fioriglio, president of The Open Link's board of directors. "They are cheering this situation."

                Brandon Mininger, a resident of Colonial Village, called the presence of a local police department huge. He said that without officers, Colonial Village will be a wreck.  "If Colonial Village goes down, it can take the whole community with it."

                Raferty, who said he plans to run for East Greenville Borough Council next year, advised the audience to learn the details of the vote before arguing about them.

                Others expressed less patience. Tim Shields, the owner of a Pennsburg business, suggested that the residents hold Sloyer accountable.  He also implored the residents of East Greenville "to get this overturned."

                Michael Schwenk, an East Greenville resident, directed the crowd to tell Sloyer to resign when they see him.

                On Tuesday, Sloyer again declined to answer an email request from the Town and Country newspaper seeking comments on East Greenville's actions or an explanation for municipal officials' absence from Monday's meeting. Eventually, Sloyer expressed a willingness to speak in person at a future date. 





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