HARRISLAND - The Pine Creek Township supervisors have delayed action on approving their participation in a law enforcement sharing system, citing concerns about potential large costs to the township.
Police Chief Dave Winkleman brought the issue up at Wednesday's meeting, saying the system is needed in the township and urged the supervisors officially enter into the agreement.
However, the supervisors and Solicitor Bob O'Connor brought concerns about the township holding the bag for costs if all other municipalities do not enter into the system as well.
The "Law Enforcement Interoperability and Communications Project" is being financed through a bulky title used to describe a project funded by a $398,200 competitive grant won by the county from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.
The hardware-software installation and set up of the network is designed to create a Better Automation and Sharing by Law Enforcement (BASLE) system to provide laptop computers and software so local departments can share arrest and other records immediately.
The county commissioners last last year unanimously approved a $282,870 software contract with CODY Systems for the software to facilitate the initiative.
The first year of the system's use will be covered through a grant. However, years two through five will be shared by municipalities that use the system.
Winkleman said the township is scheduled to foot $3,975 of the tab for three "users" - or $1,325 per user - with one "user" each for the two police cars, and one for the centralized system housed in the county's communications center.
"There are a lot of ways we would benefit from the crime recording system and the sharing of data through the county input system, and we need it... It's a very, very good system and it's important to us," Winkleman said. "If other municipalities drop out, it will increase the cost to us."
However, he added, he only sees two "questionable" potential users - which he declined to identify - who may not be on board.
O'Connor said his concern is the increased cost to the township if other municipalities opt out.
"It's one thing for the departments of the various municipalities to want to be included in the program, but it's up to the township supervisors to approve it," he said.
If other municipalities do back out of the program in the middle, Pine Creek could also back out through the proposed agreement, but, Winkleman said, "I don't see us backing out of it."
Supervisor Chairman Dennis Greenaway said, he's "very much" in favor of the system, which, he thinks, will benefit the entire county, but he wants to make sure all questions are answered before officially entering into the agreement.
To that end, the supervisors want to include in the agreement that each law enforcement department must go back to their governing body and pass an agreement parallel to Pine Creek's, that will require at least 25 users on board first.
The supervisors are expected to vote on the agreement at its meeting next month. That agreement may also include having the municipalities the Pine Creek department serves - Avis Borough and Dunnstable and Wayne townships - to share in the cost of using the system.
CODY systems include records, dispatch, case management, intelligence analysis, mobile records field field-reporting and cross-platform data-sharing, among other efforts.
When the system is up and running in mobile units, officers will be able to share real-time reports as they were being entered into the system, and provide valuable information about suspicious activities and crime patterns that go beyond municipal borders.
Winkleman noted the system allows for more security in police communications because it offers communications between computers rather than "over the air" via radio communications that could be caught by scanners.
In a related note, Winkleman said he has found, through the state Department of General Services, a savings of about $4,000 for the purchase of a new Dodge Charger to replace the current 2007 Ford Crown Victoria. The cost would be around $23,750, and would give the department two Dodge Chargers in its police force.
That police force, however, has had some staffing issues.
Winkleman noted he has been off for the last month due to an arm injury. One part-time officer, Dennis Gill, is hospitalized, while the other part-time officer, Phil Lowery, will have his last day on Feb. 5 before he begins his new job with a company that supports the Marcellus Shale natural gas industry, Winkleman said.
"The state police have helped us out a lot," the chief said.
Winkleman reported earlier in the meeting, the department had a total of 2,162 incidents in 2011, with officers patrolling 4,450 hours.
In December, the chief said, the department had 123 total incidents, with 10 citations, two DUI arrests, one motor vehicle accident, nine traffic stops, four thefts and two domestic incidents.
Because of the depleted force, Winkleman said January's figures were much lower, with only 68 incidents, three citations, one DUI arrest, eight traffic stops, one dog complaint, six harassment, three warrants served, three thefts and three domestic incidents.
In a related matter, Greenaway said he was unofficially contacted by a member of the Watson Township Board of Supervisors to possibly have Pine Creek provide services there. However, he added, there was no follow-up correspondence so it likely won't materialize.
Winkleman also said the township's first Christmas Toy Drive was a success in December, being able to help 33 children in 14 families with toys.
"It was a success," he said, adding he plans to continue it for many years to come.