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Police plan needs more public input

Residents of Old Lycoming Township, in the very near future — August or September — the township supervisors will have to make an extremely important decision about the existence of the Old Lycoming Township Police Department.

Their decision will concern regionalizing Old Lycoming Township Police Department (OLTPD) with the Tiadaghton Valley Regional Police Department (TVRPD is Jersey Shore’s police force and Porter Township’s police force). Once the two departments regionalize OLTPD will no longer exist.

This process has been going on over the past two years, with almost no public notification. Regionalization can be a good way to share services and lower costs to the residents of the municipalities involved. This process needs to be open and transparent, the residents and businesses of Old Lycoming Township need to be involved in this process from the very beginning.

In February of this year a number of residents, retired and past employees of the township became aware that the Old Lycoming Township supervisors are moving forward to complete the regionalization process by the end of 2022. It has come to our attention that the state Department of Community Economic Development (DCED) was requested to do a regionalization study for the TVRPD and OLTPD in 2019. That study was completed August of 2020. That study to my knowledge was never released to the Township residents and never made available to the news media. Why are they keeping this information quiet?

Over the past five months a number of residents and concerned citizens have attended the township meetings. The board of supervisors has attempted to silence our questions and silence me as well. The board went so far as to silence a number of people who addressed the board, then the supervisors had the township solicitor mail cease-and-desist letters to a number of handpicked people that addressed the board. When the board of supervisors were questioned, which Supervisors authorized the letters to be sent we received no answers.

The DCED study is over two years old based on 2019 data; there have been significant changes to the original study which include one municipality opting out and two brought in. The road miles, population, assessed market value and calls for service have changed. The coverage area has grown from 88.72 square miles to over 210 square miles. Also, at the time the study was done the inflation rate was 1.81%, today it is 9.06% which has changed the budgeting numbers in the study. We have contacted DCED and explained this situation to them. The person who conducted the original study stated that a new supplemental study should be done, at no cost to the Township. At the July meeting the supervisors were asked to consider the study be updated. Supervisors David Kay and Linda Mazzullo refused that request.

There are better options for Old Lycoming Township Police Department and regionalization. The board of supervisors have refused to explore these options. I am asking the township supervisors pause the present process, do a new (DCED) study and hold public meetings and explore regionalization options that best serves the residents both in cost and service. If you are concerned about the lack of transparency and the future of your police department, please attend the next township meeting at 7 p.m., Aug. 9.

Robert J Burns II is a retired sergeant with the Old Lycoming Township Police Department.

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