LAFLIN — Council approved an ordinance Tuesday giving the go-ahead for a study regarding the borough’s possible participation in a regional police force. Many citizens who attended believed that the four council members who voted “yes” had already made up their minds.
Former councilman Tony D’Eliseo told council members, “I’ve talked to some people and they believe that Laflin is already all in, not just participating in the study.”
Councilman Carl Yastremski, the sole “no” vote, said he believed Laflin residents could simply not afford the cost of sustaining a regional police department. Since 2014, the borough’s police protection has been provided by the Pennsylvania State Police at no cost to the borough.
“Initially, there would be grants that would minimize costs during the first year,” Yastremski said. “But by 2018, the cost of regionalizing would be $216,000, which would mean a significant increase in taxes for our residents.”
Council members Lisa Natt, Glen Gubitose, Sandra Falcone and Jamie Andrews disagreed, emphasizing that passage of the ordinance would simply provide opportunity for further study.
“If I voted the other way, there would people screaming at me anyway,” said Natt. “This is just doing our due diligence.”
Scott Seeherman, also a former councilman, pointed to the words “to join” in the ordinance.
Seeherman believes it’s the intent of council to ultimately become part of a regional force which would include Laflin, Pittston Township, Jenkins Township and Dupont.
Tuesday’s debate has its roots in Laflin’s recent history. In 2014, council members dissolved their police department over the strong objections of Mayor Dorothy Yazurlo.
Yazurlo concluded her opening remarks Tuesday with reference to councilwoman Jamie Andrews’ call to the State Police when several juveniles allegedly started a small fire at the baseball field near her home.
Andrews said State Police were unable to respond to her call.
Yazurlo emphasized that a regional force would be better able to respond to such matters.
Resident Chris Kopko noted “in the last two years before our police force was disbanded, 60 to 70 percent of our calls were being answered by the State Police anyway.”
Borough solicitor Steven Menn said passage of the ordinance didn’t indicate a commitment by the borough and was simply an opportunity for council’s consideration of a regional force.