Pa. townships balk at police levy

February 23, 1997


Staff Writer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Supervisors in the Franklin County, Pa. townships of Greene, Guilford and Antrim said they "vehemently" oppose Gov. Tom Ridge's plan to make them pay for their state police protection.

The proposal, if passed by lawmakers, would force communities to fund their own police departments or create regional police forces, local officials said. A similar measure died in the Legislature last year.

Only one Franklin County township, Washington, has its own police department.

Supervisors in all three affected townships said Ridge's plan - to tax the towns at $102 per capita per year - would cost their taxpayers more than $1 million a year for police protection.


The bill would affect 23 towns that have more than 9,000 people each.

Steve Crawford, an aide to State Rep. Jeff Coy, D-Franklin, said Coy opposes the plan. "It's being driven by budget concerns not crime fighting,'' Crawford said. Coy also believes the mandate could filter down to even smaller towns, Crawford said.

"No community should be assessed for state police protection,'' said state Sen. Terry Punt, R-Franklin. "If a town wants a police department they can have one, if not they can rely on the state police."

"We are strongly against it," said Greg Cook, Washington Township Supervisors chairman. "The state is only looking for money for its own budget. It won't give the towns any more police protection."

The governor sees the issue as one of fairness, said Ridge spokesman Jerry Feaser. "Everybody pays state taxes for police coverage. Some towns have paid police departments for their primary coverage while others rely on the state police for it."

Feaser said 91 percent of Pennsylvania communities with populations above 9,000 fund their own police agencies.

Officials in all three towns would favor regional police protection if Ridge's plan becomes law.

"I think it's viable," said Quinter D. Baumgardner, a Washington Township supervisor. "There already are 23 regional police departments in Pennsylvania. It's starting to happen."

Baumgardner said Washington Township spends about $600,000 a year for its 11-member police force.

He said a regional police force in his area might include Washington Township, plus the boroughs of Waynesboro, Greencastle and Mont Alto, all of which have their own police departments, and Antrim Township.

David Jamison, chairman of the Greene Township Supervisors, said Greene and Guilford townships could regionalize protection. "Guilford adjoins us," he said. "I hate to think what our own police department would cost."

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