Greater Pittston municipalities to discuss issue at meetings this week

Last updated: March 08. 2014 9:55PM - 2862 Views
By Joe Healey jhealey@civitasmedia.com

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It’s time to speak up.

Greater Pittston officials considering the creation of a regionalized police force are expected to discuss the issue at their regular municipal meetings this week. For or against the idea, residents are urged to weigh in on the plan.

State Rep. Michael Carroll, D-Avoca, who has been a proponent, said Yatesville, which currently contracts with Jenkins Township, is the first municipality to sign on.

Yatesville Council voted last week to move forward with a regional police department and appointed two members to a Greater Pittston Regional Police Authority that will be created.

Carroll said the rest of the municipalities will make a decision this week.

“Residents of all the communities should share their views with their council or supervisors on whether or not they want to move forward with a regional police department,” Carroll said. “It’s a chance for citizens to weigh in.”

Towns in discussion to form a regional police department and their meeting times are:

• Laflin, Monday at 6 p.m.

• Hughestown, Monday at 7:30 p.m.

• Dupont, Tuesday at 7 p.m.

• Duryea, Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

• Jenkins Township, Wednesday, at 7 p.m.

• Avoca, Thursday at 6:30 p.m.

A deadline for each town to decide whether to move forward or back out of further discussions has been set for March 21.

Officials from the towns again met with Ron Stern of the Governor’s Center for Local Government Services several times over the past few months and a Regional Police Study was presented.

Laflin and Dupont are strong contenders to move forward. Hughestown doesn’t want to be swallowed up, but is seen as a likely candidate to join. Jenkins Township wants to continue if the savings are spread around more evenly. Avoca is a hard sell because officials recently acquired the former Ss. Peter & Paul Church, demolished it and plan to construct a new municipal building/police headquarters. Duryea is a wild card, but the cost may keep the borough out.

The 42-page Regional Police Study outlined current staffing and costs and a plan for a unified force.

The total savings across the board of a combined department is $27,891, but some towns would pay more and some towns would pay less than they are currently paying for police protection. Avoca would pay $74,733 more; Dupont would pay $44,304 more; Duryea would pay $75,982 more and Jenkins would pay $46,530 more. Laflin would see the most significant savings, a reduction of $194,500 and Hughestown would save $74,949.

The departments’ total budget would be $1.7 million.

Local lawmakers, Carroll and state Sens. John Yudichak and John Blake are in favor of such regionalized departments, but stressed the town officials must do what’s best for their individual municipality.

With rising costs and an increase in crime, officials have said that such a force is a way of doing more with less.

The proposal to merge the six towns under one force would have a professional police force with four patrol zones instead of the current six, one headquarters instead of the current six, 15 police vehicles, down from 19 currently; one chief primarily for administrative work, instead of six who also do patrol work; and two trained detectives, up from zero now.

The proposed department would consist of 23.5 square miles and protect 17,624 residents.

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