Police attorney cautions officials about breach of contract
For the second time in as many months, East Greenville Mayor Ryan Sloyer voted Tuesday to maintain the municipality's path to dissolve the Upper Perk Police Commission.
Sloyer's tie-breaking "no" vote defeated a motion proposed by Ryan Pugh to push back the date for the borough to end the Upper Perk Police District.
Pugh, along with fellow Council members Joe Arahill and Jennifer Moran, voted for the motion to hold off leaving the commission until the end of 2017 at Tuesday's Borough Council meeting.
Robert McCluskie, Marita Thomson and acting council President Tracey Hunsinger voted against the motion. Sloyer then cast a similar vote, which means that the municipality remains on track to leave the commission at 12:01 a.m. on March 6, 2017.
Council member Lee Steinert did not attend the public meeting at the Upper Perkiomen Middle School.
Audience comments focused on council's continuing efforts to enter mediation with Pennsburg. The members discussed the potential financial implications of leaving the joint department or starting the East Greenville Police Department.
Michael Gottleib, the Norristown attorney representing the eight officers who make up the regional police department, told East Greenville's members that they will face legal consequences if they fail to comply with the terms of the officers' contract, which expires at the end of 2017. Gottleib said that if the officers don't get paid, the municipality "is looking at a lawsuit. It's very simple," he said during the meeting.
East Greenville resident Jim Raftery asked the members to push back the date to leave the department. He said it would serve as a sign of good faith to the neighboring community.
"I don't understand why you are hell bent for March 6," Raftery said.
Chris Baccari, an Upper Hanover resident, wondered aloud why East Greenville officials had not yet scheduled the pre-mediation meeting with Pennsburg officials.
"We are we continually waiting?" Baccari said. "Time is running out. How come we're not doing it now? What can we do to make this happen?"
According to solicitor Stephen Kramer, East Greenville officials are waiting to hear back from Pennsburg Solicitor Chuck Garner. Kramer said Garner will be out of the office for a couple weeks.
"The mediation has to be done the proper way," Kramer said. "It's not going to happen overnight."
During the meeting, Hunsinger said she was hoping for mediation. Pugh explained that his motion to delay the exit date from the police commission would allow the process to work.
"Hopefully, we can work this out with Pennsburg, somehow, someway," Pugh said.
Deliberations by East Greenville officials over the 2017 budget could impact their decision to remain in the commission. During the meeting, council presented four draft budgets. Municipal officials expect to ratify the budget at their Dec. 5 public meeting.
The first draft, which includes full funding for the Upper Perk Police District and a projected deficit of more than $166,000, would require a 1.6 tax millage increase. According to Hunsinger, that would call for an additional $156 tax hike for the average home owner.
The second draft, which includes the creation of the East Greenville Police Department, and would fund the Upper Perk Police District through January, February and one week of March in 2017, shows a surplus of approximately $8,400.
Two additional drafts, added since council's November 18 special meeting, show a balanced budget. According to Hunsigner, one draft eliminates all money from the road maintenance fund and the borough's contributions, including the ambulance, fire, Open Link and library.
She said the other draft includes the allocation of $512,742 "what the borough can afford," to the police department.
"I am in favor of fully funding the police department," Hunsinger said after the meeting.