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Police chief explains need for more officers in Waynesboro

November 20, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Additional police officers and a downtown manager, both of which could mean higher taxes for property owners, were the subject of a public forum Wednesday night prior to the Waynesboro Borough Council meeting.

Police Chief Ray Shultz is proposing adding three new positions, raising the department's strength to 20. The increase would allow an officer to do criminal investigations, something for which he said he does not have the manpower.

The number of drug investigations conducted with the help of the Franklin County Drug Task Force is increasing, with 52 percent involving crack cocaine, compared to 14 percent last year, according to Shultz. The percentage of heroin cases investigated tripled from 3 percent last year to 9 percent, he said.

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Councilman John Cook said the number of police calls of all types rose from 5,504 in 2000 to 9,077 in 2002. Based on those numbers, Shultz said he should have at least 14 patrol officers on duty, not counting an investigator, three corporals and his position.

Although the department's authorized strength is 17, the actual number is 14, with one called up for military duty, another retired and a third having gone to the Pennsylvania State Police, according to Council President Doug Tengler.

"With the growth around this community, the dealers see a cherry right in the middle of this town," Cook said. If the police force is not enlarged "you will end up paying for it in the end" in higher crime rates, he said.

"I don't mind increased taxes ... if I can see some results," resident Russ Brezler said. He said he wants to see a plan on how the department intends to reduce crime.

Some residents asked if the proposed increase was primarily to beef up patrols in the business district. "I'm basically opposed to increasing the police force strictly for the downtown," said resident Amos Miller.

"The issue is the chief needs the officers," said John Leos, owner of the Candy Kitchen on Center Square. "The police department is not just for the downtown merchants," he said.

"It's probably about a mill per officer with pay, benefits and the equipment we have to buy for them," Councilman Clinton Barkdoll said after the meeting, estimating the impact three more officers would have on the budget.

One mill generates about $54,000 in real estate taxes, Tengler said. The current mill rate is 16.18, or $16.18 for every $1,000 of assessed value on a property.

The council also heard comment on hiring a downtown manager to revitalize the business district, which continues to lose stores.

"A declining downtown ... certainly would affect our tax base," resident Ernie Brockmann said. The borough needs to hire someone whose only duties would be downtown revitalization and rebuild that tax base, he said.

Waynesboro Chamber of Commerce Director Carol Henicle said many people volunteer for downtown projects, but someone is needed who can devote the time to coordinate all those efforts into a cohesive plan. She suggested there may be funding available through Franklin County's hotel tax, which is used to promote tourism.

"To me we should have a plan first, and I don't see a plan," said Brezler. He said the borough should know what it wants to do downtown before hiring a manager.

Barkdoll, Tengler, Cook and Mayor Louis Barlup all said they support hiring a manager.

"When people drive through the downtown area ... they see the going out of business signs," Tengler said. "Sometimes you have to spend a few dollars to make a few dollars."

"We have a gold mine here, we just need to start mining it," Cook said.

"It should be someone from outside the area," said Barlup. "Someone with new ideas."

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