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Future police coverage for Maxatawny Township will go out to vote to residents. Topton Borough will be covered by State Police.
Berks-Lehigh Regional Department currently provides police services to Maxatawny and Topton. Come Dec. 31 when Berks-Lehigh disbands, Maxatawny Township Supervisors had planned to create their own police force and contract services to neighboring boroughs, including Topton, but those plans have been put on hold.
Maxatawny Township Manager Justin Yaich said Topton Borough rejected their agreement for contracting police services for Topton.
“There were a number of issues we didn’t reconcile,” said Yaich.
Topton Borough Manager Anthony Branco said the original proposal from Maxatawny that Topton Borough Council had agreed to was changed.
“Topton Borough Council was told take it or leave it. They decided to leave it,” said Branco.
There were a few items of contention, said Branco. First, the modified agreement required Topton pay indemnity for the police officers in Topton.
“Council and the solicitor feel when contracting police services the borough shouldn’t be responsible for that, that’s why you’re paying for a contract,” said Branco.
Another item of contention was the agreement’s requirement that Topton pay $92 per capita, in other words, they would be required to pay a fee per resident.
“We’d be paying according to the population,” explained Branco.
Council’s reaction to the fee was not too bad, he said, but they were concerned about there not being a cap on that fee.
“There was no guarantee it would be the same from year one to two, three and four,” he said. “Council wanted a cap on that fee.”
Also, Maxatawny required a four-year agreement.
“The Topton Borough Code says no council can bind a future council. The solicitor felt three years would be okay but Maxatawny wanted four,” said Branco.
The final item of concern was when Maxatawny’s police force would be created.
“Maxatawny had no idea when they would start their police force, leaving Topton potentially without service for two quarters,” said Branco.
While Maxatawny offered contracted services at about $190,000, which is less than the $239,797 that Topton paid in 2012, Topton Council did not know what the per capita fee would be in year two, three and four.
“We couldn’t put our residents in that predicament,” said Branco.
Topton Council has requested and received approval to receive State Police coverage. A State Police representative from the Reading barracks will provide a presentation at their Dec. 10 meeting at 7:30 p.m.
Lyons Borough has also been in discussions to contract police services with Maxatawny but Yaich noted their limited budget for police services and didn’t think contracting services to neighboring boroughs would cover the expense of Maxatawny starting their own department.
“The township has to plan on doing this on their own. We can’t bank on any other borough contracting,” said Yaich. “The township is not prepared to foot the entire bill. We have to focus on our residents and what our residents can afford.”
Yaich said Maxatawny has $625,000 in the budget for police. To start a full-time police department, they would need a total of $965,000, which means they need an additional $340,000.
“It’s a very big undertaking,” said Yaich.
A 2 mill increase, generating about $400,000, would cover the additional funds needed. For a house assessed at $100,000, taxes would increase $200.
“For such a big increase, the Supervisors feel it’s best to have residents have a say in it,” he said.
Supervisors plan to draft a petition to the Election Board to put a referendum on the May ballot for residents to vote on creating a full-time police department with a 2 mill increase.
In the meantime, starting Dec. 31 when Berks-Lehigh disbands, Yaich said State Police will cover Maxatawny like any other township that doesn’t have police coverage.
Yaich encouraged residents to attend the public township meetings to ask questions and learn more.
The next Maxatawny Township Supervisors meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 5.