Porter Township plans to keep regional police

JERSEY SHORE — Porter Township supervisors said they never had any intention of quitting the multi-municipal partnership that funds one of the only regional police forces in the area.

Comments at a Jersey Shore Borough Council meeting this summer sparked speculation that Porter Township might leave the agreement whereby Porter, Jersey Shore Borough, Nippenose and Piatt townships subsidize the Tiadaghton Valley Regional Police Force.

The regional force provides 24/7 coverage for all of the municipalities. It is among the more successful regional police forces in the state, and has been in place for a number of years.

The department office is located at 129 S. Pennsylvania Ave. in the borough. Formed in 2010, the agency’s 10 full-time and 1 part-time officers provide 24-hour, seven-day-a-week coverage to the municipalities.

Porter kicks in about $227,000 toward the police department.

Jersey Shore, with the largest population, bears the biggest cost burden at $528,000 toward TVRPF.

Nippenose and Piatt each appropriate about $41,000.

At a Porter meeting this week, about 30 people filled the municipal building along Shaffer Lane to voice their support for the regional police and to question supervisors.

But Supervisors John Ingraham, Ronald Markle and Irv Rauch said there was never any decision or concensuus on leaving the Tiadaghton pact.

“That wasn’t the intention at all,” Markle told the crowd.

He said confusion began when Gov. Tom Wolf’s office recently released tax information that concluded that state police protection was not currently taxed. While Markle said there was no intention of switch police services, the township did seek to find out why it seemed to be paying more.

“We figured it was our duty as supervisors to gather the information to see where we stand and what options we might have,” he said. “We had no intention of ever getting out or ever going to the state police. State police is clear in Montoursville, and we’re at the other end of the county.”

A group of concerned citizens met prior to the meeting, and many more were said to be absent due to the 10 a.m. time of the meeting Tuesday.

Denise Dieter, noting she never attended a township meeting before, said, “I never felt the need to, to be quite honest with you. I’m here on behalf of a group of individuals that met after hearing about the possibility of Porter Township withdrawing from TVRPD … the reason I think most of these individuals here that are present today is because of a concern of the possibility or the statement that was made that you may be considering either withdrawing entirely or perhaps the alternative, go to a contract basis, which could ultimately end up in reducing the number of hours that the TVRPD covers Porter Township.”

She said they were concerned about leaving the township up to the state police with a concern of response time.“We’re extremely concerned over not having the coverage that we currently have,” she said. “We’re eternally grateful that we have 24/7 police coverage. It’s important.”

Markle stressed the supervisors never were looking to get rid of the regional police coverage, but were just looking into the tax costs and why their area might pay more than another area.

“Social media got involved … and for lack of a better word, half truths came out. It went from there, and people got concerned,” he said. “We wanted to answer their questions.”

Markle said Porter Township was paying more taxes than other areas around it.

“It was more than our small community could afford,” he said.

In looking into the possibility of getting the taxes lowered, they were not looking to get rid of the service.

“We know better than that,” Markle said. “We used to have our own police department here. Everything evolves and we’ve had good luck with the police department we have now. It’s just now … our job as supervisors, we can’t just sit and let something go by.”

Markle said no action had been taken on it.

“We were just looking into it,” Markle said. “No votes, no plans, none whatsoever.”

Rauch agreed.

“We were just looking at our options,” Rauch said, and the board did not mean to divide the community over the issue.

“It’s not Porter Township and Jersey Shore … this is a community of family, it’s not a divided thing. We’re working for our whole family,” he said.

Tiadaghton Valley Regional Police Chief Nathan DeRemer said he was happy to see so many people show up.

“I appreciate everybody that’s here in support of the police,” he said. “At no point did the township ever say they were unhappy with the service. That’s not the position that they are in … I don’t believe that they’ve ever said, ‘We don’t want Tiadaghton Valley egional police,’ at all. I can tell you I’ve never heard them say anything like that.”

He said that the police department always is open for input and residents should call the police department if they have questions or input on anything.

“I would like to invite anyone to call,” he said. “It takes public communication with the police to solve a lot of these crimes.”

Dieter asked about the possibility of moving meetings to an evening time for those who work during the day, if the issue comes up in the future.

“I’ve been coming to these meetings for five or six years, and we (previously) had them at night. There was no one here,” Markle said. “We’ll look at it … but of course when you change, you’ve got to go through advertising and all that.”

He said he wasn’t sure if changing the meeting time would be the best option for everyone involved or if it was just a certain issue that needed to be addressed in a special circumstance.

“If there is something serious, in my opinion, we could hold a special meeting (in the evening),” Markle said.

He said one thing that came of the meeting’s discussion was that the supervisors would like to look into new ways of communication.

“Maybe if we could put something on the internet, but we don’t have a website set up. Maybe that’s something we need to look into … but again, we like to watch every penny we’ve got to keep it going,” Markle said.

The next meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. Oct. 10. For more information, the township office can be reached at 570-398-4526.