Western Clinton County eyes regional police force

PHOTO PROVIDED
Harrisburg officials Howard Dougherty, second from left, and Ron Stern met with representatives of Renovo and South Renovo boroughs as well as Noyes and Chapman townships to discuss a six-month study that they completed regarding a western Clinton County regional police department. Start up costs are estimated at $238,000 with room to minimize or expand from those services.

PHOTO PROVIDED Harrisburg officials Howard Dougherty, second from left, and Ron Stern met with representatives of Renovo and South Renovo boroughs as well as Noyes and Chapman townships to discuss a six-month study that they completed regarding a western Clinton County regional police department. Start up costs are estimated at $238,000 with room to minimize or expand from those services.

By KEVIN RAUCH

For The Express

RENOVO — Representatives from Chapman Township, Noyes Township and South Renovo Borough joined Renovo Borough officials last week to hear the results of a six-month study of the four municipalities forming a regional police department in Western Clinton County.

The study was completed by Ron Stern, Local Government Policy Manager for the  Governor’s Center for Local Government Services and consultant Howard Dougherty, who has done extensive work in setting up and overseeing regional police departments.

Currently only Renovo has its own police force with one full-time officer. South Renovo and Renovo recently worked out a month-by-month deal whereby Renovo offers limited protection on a monthly basis.

The startup annual budget for the regional police department came in at $238,000 with an employee base of two full-time and four part-time officers. That would cover the 2,862 people living within the 192 square mile radius of the four municipalities.

Stern reminded the elected officials that he had warned them that there would be “sticker shock” when they all met last June. What makes that number even more eye popping, he said, is the fact that in the 2015 budgets, Noyes, South Renovo nor Chapman had any money paid out to police departments, as all are being covered by Pennsylvania State Police. Renovo’s police budget is $84,900.

The Harrisburg officials said that the plan actually called for six full-time officers but they knew that there was no way local municipalities could pay something along those lines.

Dougherty explained that a police commission would run the regional police force and would be made up of an elected official from each municipality as well as one citizen from one of the covered areas. Dougherty explained that often times a citizen may serve two years, and then be replaced by a citizen from a different municipality.

Local officials offered few questions which would likely be perceived due to either the “sticker shock” or possibly even disinterest, although all were taking information packets back to their governing bodies to review.

Stern cautioned of an oft brought up state bill that would force all municipalities that are covered by PSP to have to pay in some manner for those services. Although how exactly those payments would be made has never been revealed.

Earlier in the meeting Dougherty explained that Renovo residents are paying a per capita of $34 for their police protection. He said that number “astonishes me… you are getting a lot of bang for your buck”.

By comparison, the PSP per capita could be as high as $156, he said.

There is no date for a decision to be made on the regional police issue, and the Harrisburg officials said that the plan could be re-worked in a number of scenarios, including if one or two of the municipalities dropped out but others wanted to move forward.

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