Four months after voting to withdraw from the Upper Perk Police Commission, East Greenville Borough Council is prepared to move forward with formal mediation with Pennsburg.
On Tuesday, during a special meeting, East Greenville officials unanimously approved a resolution to authorize its participation in the formal process with its neighboring community.
According to Council President Tracey Hunsinger, the mediation would be hosted by the Montgomery Bar Association's Center for Mediation and Arbitration, located in Norristown. She said Pennsburg officials would have to ratify a similar resolution for the process to move forward.
According to Hunsinger, settling its differences with Pennsburg and maintaining coverage by the Upper Perk Police District are the council's top priorities.
"East Greenville wants to get this process started as soon as possible," she said after the meeting, which lasted just 11 minutes. "Hopefully, we can come up with some solutions. It's our main focus."
Municipal officials voted to spend no more than $3,000 in legal fees on the process. They declined to describe the details of the pending mediation or the recent pre-mediation meetings with Pennsburg officials to an audience of 22 residents inside Borough Hall.
The lack of details irked some citizens seeking specifics on the cost of the mediation. However, they seemed to accept an explanation from Mayor Ryan Sloyer that officials from both communities are complying with a joint confidentiality agreement. Sloyer said any supplemental information would be disseminated through a joint press release.
"I hope additional details will come out sometime soon," Hunsinger said during the meeting.
During the meeting, East Greenville Solicitor Stephen Kramer also declined to comment on the specifics of the pre-mediation meeting between the boroughs. After the meeting, he refused to discuss the general details of the mediation.
"We're moving forward in an abundance of caution," Kramer said.
According to its website, the Center for Mediation and Arbitration "provides quick, efficient, cost-effective dispute resolution for lawyers, insurance companies and any members of the public who have a civil dispute or a pretrial case pending in Montgomery, Delaware, Berks, Chester, Bucks or Philadelphia counties."
Mediation is "the process in which the parties attempt to resolve their dispute with the assistance of a neutral, impartial third party who promotes or facilitates an understanding among the parties of their common interests in reconciling or settling the matter," according to the website. It also claims that the goal of the program is "to provide an opportunity for an expeditious resolution of disputes outside of the courts. All CMA panelists have extensive experience in mediation and arbitration of civil matters."
In early September, East Greenville council voted unanimously to leave the commission that establishes the Upper Perk Police District. The resolution set the borough's exit date as 12:01 a.m. on March 6, 2017.
"We regret to announce that we will serve notice to the Borough of Pennsburg that we have voted to terminate the contract that establishes" the commission, said Hunsinger, then the council's vice president, reading from a prepared statement to a near-empty borough hall at 9:50 p.m. on Sept. 6, 2016. "Unfortunately, our partnership has deteriorated to the extent that it is irretrievably broken."
Three weeks later, amid boisterous opposition from residents, municipal officials explained they decided to leave the commission due to a perceived lack of respect from their partner community.
"We were stunned by the open lack of valuing East Greenville as a partner," said Hunsinger, serving in her first meeting as acting president following the resignation of Council President Jim Young.
"This is not the way you talk to a partner you want to stay partners with," Hunsinger said during the Sept. 27 public meeting, adding that the situation deteriorated further in June when Pennsburg Mayor Vicki Lightcap called "police regionalization a 'Pennsburg issue.'"
In October, municipal officials from both communities agreed to send representatives to a pre-mediation meeting, which occurred Dec. 8. Three days earlier, council voted to remain in the police commission until June 1.
Following council's final meeting of 2016, Hunsinger said that its plan to create a municipal police department has been put on hold.