Westfall Township, Matamoras, PA
August 18, 2014
Joint Budget Workshop Meeting-Westfall Township, Matamoras Borough and Eastern Pike Regional Police Commission
A Joint Meeting between the Westfall Township Board of Supervisors, The Matamoras Borough Council and The Eastern Pike Regional Police Commission was held Monday, August 18, 2014 at 7:00 pm. The meeting was held at the Westfall Township Municipal Building located at 102 LaBarr Lane, Westfall Township, PA.
Those present were Vice Chairman Robert Melvin, Supervisors Raymond Banach (by speaker phone), Lester Buchanan, and Jerry Dotey; Mayor Janet Clark, Councilmen David Clark, Kevin Rose, Pete Sigreto, and Dayne Losee; Councilwoman, Joann Featherman; Solicitors Robert Bernathy, Eric Hamill, and Thomas Mincer; Secretaries Jodi Hulse, Nancy Buchanan and Barbara Gilette; Kevin Salvati, Chad Stewart, Eric Stewart and approximately 9 members of the general public.
Chairman Larry Flansburg and President Joseph Sain were not present.
Presentation and discussion of the 2015 Eastern Pike Regional Police Budget:
Vice Chairman Melvin thanked everyone for attending the meeting. He said this meeting is to fulfill the request of the change to the Eastern Pike Regional Police Department Regionalization agreement schedule. The meeting is to present the proposed police department budget to the Borough of Matamoras and the Township of Westfall. Vice Chairman Melvin said this is a workshop between Matamoras, Westfall and the Police Commission. There is no public comment on the agenda. The focus of the meeting is the police department budget. He said the budget presented has been the proposed budget for the past couple of years. Vice Chairman Melvin stated that for the last three years (2012, 2013 & 2014) Westfall Township has contributed $385,655.00. Matamoras has been contributing $341,996.00 for 2012, 2013 & 2014. He said there is an increase in the proposed budget. The increase is $55,171.00 for Westfall and $48,926.00 for Matamoras. The increase includes the addition of one full time officer and some costs for Worker’s Compensation Insurance that have been growing over time. He said he did some numbers and the compound growth rate that we had since 2009. The total police budget has been growing roughly 2.5 % per year since 2009 which is not an out of control number. If we were to continue to be flat year to year where we have been for the past three years we would be at a 2.1% compounded annual growth rate from 2009 through 2015. That is really tight and the department needs additional money to cover the additional officer and some additional costs. If the proposed budget is approved by the municipality and the borough the compound annual growth rate from 2009 to 2015 is 4%. The year to year increase would be 14.3%. Vice Chairman Melvin said we want to be transparent and show all of the numbers. There are no secrets here. He said the numbers book which Matamoras and Westfall both have, shows detailed numbers by line item. It is all there to be taken back to the individual boards to discuss the budgets.
Vice Chairman Melvin asked if there were any questions. Supervisor Buchanan asked if the new police officer would be an addition to the department or a replacement. Chief Chad Stewart said it would be to replace an officer that left in 2011. He said we used that salary for raises in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Councilman Clark confirmed with Chief Stewart the 3% salary increases for the officers. Councilwoman Featherman asked how many full time officers are employed by the department currently. He said nine full time and three part time. Councilwoman Featherman said she noticed the department went from two sergeants to one in 2013. She asked if there were any proposed promotions. Chief Stewart said no. Supervisor Buchanan asked if the three part time officers included the one who is leaving. Chief Stewart said three is current. Vice Chairman Melvin asked how the department is doing covering shifts with the nine full time and three part time officers. Chief Stewart said the Assistant Chief does the scheduling. Assistant Chief Eric Stewart said he is actually been moving schedules around to prevent creating overtime and to remain within the current budget. He said the numbers have gone down substantially since the start of the department in 2008 in regards to part time officers. We are down to three now. He said they are not having people beat down the doors to come and work for the Eastern Pike Regional Police Department. We do not have applications on hand and the few they did have disqualified. The additional tenth full time officer will be taking the spot of a person who is working thirty two hours and now putting them at forty hours. Assistant Chief Stewart said we are kind of “plugging a hole” but they will need to look for additional part time officers as well. He feels there should be at least four part time officers in addition to the full time officers. Due to contractual obligations there are certain benefits of vacation days every year, personal days and if someone gets injured we need additional officers. One officer was out for a while due to an operation he had. This all draws and pulls from the department’s resources, added Assistant Chief Stewart. He said we are trying to keep a department going that is manned 24/7 at 365 days a year.
Supervisor Dotey asked if the part time officer receive benefits. Assistant Chief Stewart responded, no.
Commissioner Kevin Salvati directed a question to the Chief and Assistant Chief. He asked how many hours of overtime they put in last month. Assistant Chief Stewart said he does not keep track anymore. Commissioner Salvati asked if he had a rough idea. Assistant Chief Stewart said he probably does at least twenty hours of overtime per month.
Vice Chairman Melvin said the reason they have a hard time getting officers, both full and part time, is that they must live in the State of Pennsylvania. It is hard because we are so close to New Jersey and New York. So most people would be pulled from the Scranton area which is far. He said there have been some recent applicants but they have not been able to pass the security background check. It puts the department and commission in a difficult situation. Supervisor Dotey asked if they the applicants are already police officers. Assistant Chief Stewart said no. They are new applicants. We run their background checks and something comes up either criminally or one of the references have said this is not someone they would want to hire. Supervisor Buchanan confirmed they are Act 120 certified.
Supervisor Buchanan said he wanted to make sure everyone knows everyone in the meeting. Everyone introduced themselves.
Vice Chairman Melvin asked if there were any other questions for the Chief and Assistant Chief. Supervisor Banach inquired about the income (fines) to the department from the borough, township and school. He included the pipeline and sale of equipment. He asked what kind of impact this has on the budget. Chief Stewart said there is proposed income listed on the budget. He read those sections of the budget. He said the fines budgeted are $60,000 and the grants are $14,000. The grants are an “in and out” item covering overtime for officers. Solicitor Mincer said they do not get State Police fines. Assistant Chief Stewart said the State Police fines are paid directly to the municipality and do not get paid to the department. He said, as far as the cars they are getting rid of, they are eleven and twelve years old and are not safe. The frames have been patched and they are sold as scrap metal. Vice Chairman Melvin asked if when the pipeline came through and additional monies were received if the money was used for additional costs. Chief Stewart said he does not have any figures in front of him regarding the pipeline since it is not on the 2015 budget. He said the costs were reimbursements for the officer, fuel, insurance and things of that nature. Councilman Sigreti said we broke even, basically. Solicitor Mincer said it was overtime only. It was not in the budget and the officers had to voluntarily work overtime only. Vice Chairman Melvin asked how much approximately came in from it. Chief Stewart said, off the top of his head, around $50,000. Supervisor Dotey asked why we would not have made a profit on it. Solicitor Mincer said that is not allowed. Councilman Losee said it is not a business. Solicitor Mincer said there seems to be some confusion. He said we as a police department cannot make a profit off of any of the services provided. If the school asks them to come and cover something, the department has a formula which is based on exactly the cost of the overtime officers. If a profit was made it would have to be a private police department or security agency. Solicitor Mincer said when the pipeline people came in we had to be very careful and clear that it was overtime only, could not be during any regular shifts and that the money the department was charging was a break even for the police department. He said they had to be very careful about it since they are a non- profit organization. They are not a private police department in any manner.
Supervisor Buchanan read an article from the Pike County Dispatch which Supervisor Dotey brought to his attention. He read the article regarding the police department. The article read that the Police Commission is a private entity that overseas and owns the department. Vice Chairman Melvin said his interpretation is that it is an independent corporation which means the commission takes on the burden of liability. Supervisor Buchanan said that he thinks that Supervisor Dotey is questioning the part that says “owns and overseas the department”. Chief Stewart said it is in the newspaper. Supervisor Dotey said it is a direct quote from Mr. Paris. Chief Stewart said he cannot speak for him. Solicitor Mincer said a regional police department is authorized in Pennsylvania. It is not a corporation or a Limited Liability Company. It is not allowed to be by law. It is a special entity and by the agreement between the two municipalities the commission is to oversee the police department. There is a whole list of things the commission does regarding budget and personnel. The commission is independent from the municipalities but has representatives of the municipalities on it. He said there is an additional independent fifth person who is on the commission. Solicitor Mincer said Solicitor Bernathy built this stipulation into the contract. He said the equipment is owned by the Eastern Pike Regional Police Department. Solicitor Bernathy said the fifth person, just so people are aware, is to break a tie. Vice Chairman Melvin said the fifth person is Mr. Salvati, for people who do not know. Solicitor Bernathy said it is usually recommended to have an odd number to prevent gridlock on certain issues. Supervisor Dotey understands the part that if something is being done for the school a profit cannot be made. If services are being provided for an outside organization it would be beneficial to make extra money doing so. Solicitor Mincer cleared it up from a legal standpoint by saying it is not allowed. Councilman Sigreto said it is against the Pennsylvania State law. Solicitor Mincer said if a profit is made then it would be considered a private police department offering private services. He said once again, it cannot be done. Councilman Losee said the Eastern Pike Regional Police Department is not an LLC or a Corporation. He said it is not a business. Supervisor Banach said he agrees and he is aware a profit is not allowed but the officers are benefitting by receiving overtime wages and the wear and tear on equipment as guns, vehicles and uniforms are being paid by the municipality and the borough. He said a profit is not being made by equipment is being worn out faster. He said when the equipment needs to be replace it is purchased by the municipality and in a way is unfair to the citizens. Vice Chairman Melvin said that when the services are at the school it is a community service to protect the community and the residents who are attending a game. He said it is important that a presence is shown to keep peace. Regarding the pipeline, he said we benefitted by gaining an extra zone patrol over Westfall Township where the pipeline was located. Vice Chairman Melvin understood Supervisor Banach’s comment on the wear and tear of the equipment but feels we need to weigh the benefit of the community against the costs of tires and mileage. He said some of the cost was recouped within the rate which is charged to the entities since we charge for the officer, mileage and gas and other things. He said he understands Supervisor Banach’s point but it is hard to tell how whole his calculations are. Solicitor Mincer said before the pipeline was brought about it was brought up at three public meetings. It took a while for the Police Commissioners to make a decision. A lot of research was done to see how it would affect the community. Commissioner Salvati said we were going to be there whether we were paid or not. There were many complaints regarding the “tree huggers’ and trespassers. We would have been responded to calls and patrolling that area anyway. The pipeline offered compensation knowing they would be putting a burden on the police department. The area needed to be patrolled due to vandalism to equipment. He said it is not like we took something on and made an extra bunch of money. Vice Chairman Melvin said the way the contract was constructed was that court time for any arrests made up there as well were paid. Assistant Chief Stewart said that is correct. Chief Stewart said that before the contract went into effect there were calls they responded to on their own which involved costs. There were trespassing complaints and court time due to this. He said quite a bit of money was spent. Vice Chairman Melvin asked if the department was able to recoup the money. Chief Stewart said no. Assistant Chief Stewart said that Westfall received an additional officer at the pipeline’s expense. The built in rate covered the cost of the cars, tires, insurance, etc. He said as far as a gun, it will wear the same as if it is on the officer’s body or sitting at home. Assistant Chief Stewart said Westfall received an additional three officers for an entire summer. They were for zones one, two and three which are exclusively in Westfall Township. He said Westfall Township made out well since the pipeline was paying for that additional officer. Before the additional officer, the department was getting clobbered with the time they were spending up at the pipeline. Supervisor Buchanan asked what could be done to find other things like this so that it reduces the overhead to have the third party cover costs of the services. He questioned other things that are out there that could be looked at as a group. He knows we cannot make money but we can have the costs covered which would reduce the amount Matamoras and Westfall have to put into it. Commissioner Salvati said it would not be reducing the cost. The officer would be assigned to that project solely so it is a “break even” deal. There is no profit made on the officer. Vice Chairman Melvin said that something could be done if we expand borders and maybe work with other municipalities. He said that would be a different scenario and things like this have been discussed for years. Supervisor Dotey said we should start a campaign on that. Chief Stewart said if additional municipalities are added obviously the costs to all parties involved would decrease. Supervisor Dotey said his question has been answered.
Vice Chairman Melvin asked if there were any other questions with no response. He suggested all parties take the proposed budget back to their municipality or borough. The budget is where the police department feels it needs to be. He said we wanted to have this meeting to present the numbers to both entities so that they have plenty of time to look at it and research it. There are three weeks before the next police commission meeting to come up with any questions. This will give enough time for both entities to figure out what is best for their communities. Solicitor Mincer said he is aware that both municipalities have nominated two people to be able to meet. He suggested they meet before the police commission meeting to formulate any questions. Vice Chairman Melvin thought that is important. Councilman Clark said that President Sain will be back next week. Supervisor Buchanan said that anytime is good for himself and Supervisor Dotey so to pick and date and they will be there. There was discussion regarding the date for the meeting. The meeting was scheduled for August 27, 2014 at a private location.
Vice Chairman Melvin said that the budget is now available for review and everyone will be prepared going into the budget cycles.
ADJOURNMENT: The meeting adjourned at 7:33 pm. Vice Chairman Melvin thanked all for coming.