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Police Commission Deliberations Nearing the Brink
Written by Bradley Schlegel Staff Writer

                Deliberations to salvage the Upper Perk Police Commission appear to be on the brink of collapse. Officials from East Greenville and Pennsburg borough councils seem unwilling to compromise over the former's withdrawal date from the commission.

                According to East Greenville officials, the mediation between the neighboring municipalities can move forward if Pennsburg council removes a condition requiring a later dissolution deadline.

                However, Pennsburg Council President Kris Kirkwood said he does not think the members are inclined "at this time" to eliminate that condition.

                The future of the Upper Perk Police District could be determined during Tuesday's Pennsburg Borough Council meeting. Officials from both boroughs have blamed each other for the stalemate.

                If Pennsburg's elected officials withdraw their requirement for East Greenville to pushback its dissolution date to Dec. 31, the formal mediation process will be allowed to continue. Otherwise, East Greenville officials will pursue all their "options to provide cost-effective, professional police service to its residents," according to a news release from the municipality. 

                East Greenville officials interpreted Pennsburg's condition as a willingness to suspend the discussions. According to Kirkwood, East Greenville's statement carried similar significance.

                "By putting that statement out, they were the ones that shut the door (on the negotiations)," Kirkwood said Tuesday afternoon.

                In a statement released Tuesday morning, Kirkwood claims that East Greenville refuses to negotiate with Pennsburg. The public outcry, primarily from East Greenville residents, is for officials to mediate the problems.

                "I believe, as a result of the behavior displayed at East Greenville council meetings over the past few months, Pennsburg has no faith there can be a successful mediation process," he wrote in the statement, which he said represents his personal opinion.

                East Greenville officials, who approved formal mediation through the Montgomery County Bar Association during a Jan. 10 public meeting, argued publically that the withdrawal date should have been discussed during mediation rather than used by Pennsburg officials as leverage.

                According to Kirkwood, East Greenville officials objected to the condition because they always had a firm date in mind to leave the commission.

                "There's not going to be any negotiations," he said.  "It's over with. That's the impression I got."

                Kirkwood said Pennsburg officials insisted on the condition to make sure both boroughs have adequate time to complete the mediation process before the police department is disassembled. He declined to speculate on how long the mediation process would last.

                "How long did it take us to get to this point," Kirkwood asked.

                Last week, in a letter mailed to every resident and property owner in East Greenville, Mayor Ryan Sloyer provided the itemized costs of the creation of the East Greenville Police Department.

                He estimated total start-up costs for a "basic functioning police department" would be between $200,000 and $250,000.

                Costs include $50,000 to convert the Colonial Village Clubhouse into a police department; $20,000 to outfit the officers; $40,000 for computers; $20,000 for furniture, security cameras, a gun safe, pistol safe and other business items; $60,000 for miscellaneous items; and $30,000 for mobile and portable radios.

                "We cannot financially support the current law enforcement model," Sloyer wrote in the Jan. 25 letter. "The residents of our town deserve a safe environment, but they also deserve and demand that their tax dollars commit to the town, as a whole, not to one segment leaving the rest unsupported and in disrepair."

                Sloyer, referencing East Greenville's Jan. 24 news release, says officials are prepared to move forward with plans to start their own department if the neighboring community won't reconsider its condition. The municipality has set a June 1 deadline to leave the commission.

                "We don't know what Pennsburg is going to do," he said Monday afternoon.






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