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Pennsburg Borough Council Makes Offer to Save Police Commission
Written by Bradley Schlegel Staff Writer

                In an attempt to preserve the Upper Perk Police District for another year, Pennsburg Borough Council is willing to increase its funding contribution.

                During 2017 budget deliberations Tuesday night, elected officials voted to pay an additional 2.5 percent towards the department's operating costs. The borough currently covers 55 percent of the expenses. The increase would cost Pennsburg an additional $36,000 and cover only next year, according to Council member Diane Stevens.

                A representative of the borough will contact East Greenville lawmakers immediately to officially make the offer. A Pennsburg representative will make a similar public offer at the Nov. 22 East Greenville Borough Council meeting.

                Under the agreement, Pennsburg would assume 57.5 percent of the department's costs. East Greenville's burden would drop from 45 percent to 42.5 percent.

                If East Greenville officials accept the offer, the borough would only have to contribute an additional $1,675.48 in 2017 over its current rate, according to Bruce Lord, the vice president of Pennsburg's council.

                Robert Seville, a member of the Pennsburg Council and a representative on the Upper Perk Police Commission, called it a last shot and a one-time offer to preserve the commission and the department. 

                "There's nothing more we can do," said Seville, a retired police officer who recused himself from the vote due to contractual issues.

                The proposed increase would push Pennsburg's contribution towards the police department to $828,990, according to Stevens. Council President Kris Kirkwood estimated the cost of the additional funding as the equivalent of .25 mills. Stevens suggested that the money could be transferred from savings to cover the one-year expense.

                Pennsburg officials broached the issue gingerly during the public meeting. Some council members suggested discussing the issue in an executive session. Stevens said she wanted the public to absorb the debate.

                Borough officials decided to make the offer because they had not heard from East Greenville officials regarding a planned mediation session. 

                "We would have preferred to make this offer in a mediation meeting," Kirkwood said.

                Timing also played a role in the decision. According to Seville, officers must be given notice by Dec. 6 if they will be laid off when East Greenville withdraws from the commission on March 6, 2017.

                Seville expressed concerns that the dissolution of the police district could eliminate constant coverage in Pennsburg. 

                "If East Greenville proceeds with its plan, we may be forced to use the state police some of the time," he said. "I want to be fair to our residents."

                Mayor Vicki Lightcap disagreed, saying municipal officials were preparing a budget with a police department that would maintain around-the-clock coverage in the borough.

                After the meeting, Lightcap said she knew how many officers that would require, but declined to provide a number.

                Pennsburg officials started the meeting with an updated draft budget that included a $15,000 shortfall with a proposed .5 mill tax increase figured in, according to Kirkwood.





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