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Muncy-area municipalities continue regionalization talks

MONTGOMERY– Montgomery and Muncy boroughs alongside Brady and Clinton townships met for a third time in an ongoing discussion concerning the possibility of police regionalization in the area on Tuesday.

Council members, supervisors, and the Officer in Charge in Montgomery, Eric Winters, met to develop a list of questions to present to Joseph Hamm, Jersey Shore borough manager, at their next joint meeting.

At the last discussion on Sept. 30, the municipalities and Winters discussed the multi-stepped process preceding possible regionalization.

The group intends to invite Hamm to its next meeting to hear his take on police regionalization, having experienced the process firsthand with the expansion of the Tiadaghton Valley Regional Police Department.

“Step one is for each municipality to go back and discuss amongst themselves who wants to represent their municipality, to create a committee,” Winters said. “Step two is where we really start asking questions, tough questions, good questions, concerns — and come up with what each municipality feels is appropriate, whether you want to talk budget, coverage, assets, pension.”

Many questions on the minds of supervisors, council members and community members alike concerned of coverage, costs, pensions and assets. Winters added that one of the major questions was regarding how many calls each municipality gets, as Clinton Township does not have a police department.

Winters said the municipalities currently do not have 24/7 coverage and the purpose of regionalization is to ensure safety and coverage among the four municipalities. He added that, with a jump in the number of 911 calls for Clinton Township from the 700s in 2014 to over 1,000 in 2017 and with the number of calls in Brady, Muncy and Montgomery also increasing, increased coverage is the point for this joint effort.

Coverage would not only be 24/7, but there would be more officers on duty, Winters said.

Larry Stout, Clinton Township supervisor, added they would ensure “the best possible coverage that they could afford.”

“We are in 2019, things are getting bad,” said Shawn Coles, Montgomery council member. “We see things happening around us. We are trying to protect our citizens. I’ve seen crime increased.”

Edward Fiegles, Muncy Council president, posed questions on workers’ pensions and how that would work with retirees and current employees, while Mike Goetz, Brady Township supervisor, asked about a “mechanism to value assets” and what would go into determining the chief of the force.

“There are so many ‘whats,’ “ Goetz said. “This is to explore the possibility. We don’t know what we don’t know. It’s not a done deal.”

Goetz added that each municipality has its own coverage, with the exception of Clinton Township, but he wants to “stretch the community” to be able to provide for all.

These questions, alongside deeper questions regarding sharing assets, employees and ranks, possible issues and costs, will be brought to Hamm at the next meeting.

The next step in the joint discussion, according to Winters, is to create a charter agreement and speak to an attorney for the legal side of unanswered questions. The group also will need to start adding up costs.

The next joint regionalization discussion meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Nov. 6 at the Montgomery Borough Building on East Main Street.

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