Despite initial concerns that a $5,500 increase in expenses was too much for Hepburn Township to cover, the township supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to renew their contract with the Old Lycoming Township Police Department.
"(This) is a hefty increase," said Bob Fesemeyer, a Hepburn Township supervisor.
The contract, which will cost the borough $43,500 in 2009, allows for an Old Lycoming police officer to patrol Hepburn and Lycoming Townships. The townships split the costs of maintaining the officer.
ASHLEY M. WISLOCK/Sun-Gazette
Hepburn Township Volunteer Fire Co. Chief Jeffrey Tempesco expresses his support for the Old Lycoming Police Department at the Hepburn Township supervisors meeting on Tuesday. At the meeting, the township renewed its contract with the police department after debating the cost and necessity of an officer.
The township has no police force of its own, and is considered state police territory.
Nearly 30 township residents attended the meeting to voice their opinions on the matter.
The agreement came about four years ago, according to Hepburn supervisor Rand Lepley, due to the availability of a short-term grant from the state.
The grant money from the state for the officer gradually decreased over the three years of the contract, and the townships picked up the complete tab for the officer in the fourth year, which amounted to $38,000 for Hepburn Township in 2008.
The townships would then have to decide whether to continue to budget for the officer without grant money in the future.
"The question is, can we afford to put $45,000 into the budget on our own," Lepley said.
Ken Andrus, secretary and township zoning officer, was in favor of the contract renewal from the beginning.
"We're paying our fair share," he said. "They're bending over backwards to accommodate us, in my opinion."
Andrus said zoning complaints are easier to handle with "an officer in uniform" and that the officers "take care of a lot of paperwork" for the township.
Old Lycoming Sgt. Joe Hope said traffic fines and other citations also bring in revenue for the township.
In 2007, about $8,000 in revenue was given to the township, and so far in 2008, about $2,600 has been received.
In addition, the officers responded to more than 475 calls in the township in 2007.
Though one resident said the officers just "run around burning gas" because there "is not that much crime in the township" Sgt. Chris Kriner said crime in the township is a reality that a more visible police can help solve.
He mentioned a case involving a man from New York who moved in with his girlfriend, a Hepburn Township resident, where he sold crack cocaine and sexually molested her daughter.
Kriner said the man said he moved to the area "because he felt comfortable here and he thought there were no police officers here."
By renewing the contract and maintaining the police officer in the township, Kriner said, Hepburn residents can send the message that criminals are not welcome in the area.
Most of the residents in attendance agreed.
"Visibility is going to solve a lot of (crime)," said a resident who did not give his name. "Visibility is preventative of crime."