Resident Bill Ogden was the first to confront the board. He had previously attended the Oct. 2 meeting with concerns about the police department and the township’s limited number of officers to cover shifts.
Ogden’s question related to the previous meeting at which time he was told the Pennsylvania State Police would be covering any shifts that the Lawrence Township police couldn’t provide coverage. He asked the supervisors if they knew which shifts would be covered by the Pennsylvania State Police.
“If we knew it we wouldn’t tell you,” said Supervisor Chairman Glenn Johnston, “because criminals would be listening in. It is absolutely, totally covered, because the state police take care of that.”
Johnston informed again that shifts are either covered by the state police or the Lawrence Township police.
“So, would I be correct that there isn’t any weakness?” asked Clearfield County Sheriff Chester Hawkins. Johnston replied to his knowledge that is correct.
Hawkins then questioned if there is a difference in response times with the state police responding to calls in the township. Supervisors Edward Brown and William Lawhead said to their knowledge, there isn’t any difference in response times.
Hawkins then questioned the protection of the people who are living in the township.
“We’re providing, in my opinion, the best police coverage that we can provide with dollars that we have available to this board of supervisors to provide that protection,” said Lawhead.
“If at any point in time that there is not a township officer particularly assigned to this township, they notify County Control, at which time the Pennsylvania State Police are told and they will respond to any emergencies.”
Lawhead added that the budget supports the current police force of seven officers. He said they would only be able to hire additional police officers if the township’s funding is increased.
Johnston asked if either Hawkins or Ogden knew of any instance in which someone did not get police service, and the answer was no.
“We have authorized overtime, which we had cut completely out of our budget,” Brown said. “We had said no overtime for the police department. But, to cover the extra shifts, we have authorized overtime on an as-needed basis. It’s not as drastic as everyone thinks it is.”
Johnston provided an idea to Hawkins and Ogden to improve the police force, alluding to the tax increase, which has been placed on the election ballot for 6 mills.
“I will ask you something that will be productive,” said Johnston. “Get out and campaign for what we’ve put on the ballot to get that approved.”
Hawkins responded to Johnston’s suggestion by saying residents of the township will not vote for a 6 percent increase.
“If they’re not, then what you’re telling me is the public is satisfied with the police department that they’re getting,” Johnston said.
Johnston informed Hawkins that the township cannot spend more than they have in its budget. He said it’s just like in a business or a household, where you can’t spend money that you don’t have.
Hawkins questioned where all the part-time officers had gone to and was told they had either quit or gone to full-time. Johnston added that by paying the officers a full-time and a higher wage, the stronger conditions would make a better and stronger officer, as well as for a more dedicated force.
Brown said that they did that for the officers, because they wanted the officers they had at a full-time rate. He said the officers agreed to this arrangement with the township.
Johnston said the 6 mill increase can only go toward emergency services. Of that, only half can be used toward wages. He said the other half is used toward hard assets for other public safety or emergency services, such as vehicles, gas and fire equipment. In order for the increase to even be put on the ballot, he said it had to be a public safety issue.
Lawhead reaffirmed that the township has police coverage 24 hours per day and seven days per week.
“It’s because gentlemen like this come in here and say they want more police,” Johnston said. “We’re trying to accommodate the people that come in here and tell us they want more police.”
“I’m down here for one thing,” Hawkins said. “I don’t want to see the Lawrence Township police decimated, and that’s exactly what they’re being. You three gentleman may think it’s different, but I don’t.”
Johnston and Brown agreed that they don’t want to see it decimated either. Hawkins told the supervisors he appreciated them listening to his input.
“We appreciate your input and we appreciate your position,” Johnston said, “because we agree with it.”
Brown said everyone tries to fight with the supervisors over this issue, but they don’t disagree on this. He said they just don’t know how to fund it.
“Don’t you think we pulled our hair out about this?” Brown asked.
Following the lengthy discussion about the police force, Johnston said he’s burned out three pencils just trying to figure out a way of making it work. He said they are between a rock and a hard place.
In other business:
– Solicitor James Naddeo informed the supervisors the Maxwell Trucking problem had been resolved.
– An executive session was held for personnel issues without any action being taken afterward. The issues regarded road crew policy and the police department.
– A new hearing was set for the Martell application. It will be held at 6:45 p.m. Nov. 20.
– A state Department of Conservation of Natural Resources (DCNR) representative has photographs of the Recreational Park. He will be reporting back to his supervisor and obtaining the final report.
– A conditional use was granted for Forecon Inc. for timbering in a rural agricultural district on Baneyville Road.
– A conditional use was tabled for Jeff Krause for timbering in a rural agricultural district on Carbon Mine Road until the ownership issues are resolved. Another hearing will be scheduled following the resolution of ownership.
– A checking account (a Public Funds Account) will be set up for Act 13 Funds at County National Bank
– The supervisors decided to re-advertise for the position on the airport authority after receiving only one letter of interest for the position.
– The supervisors approved to pay the estimate for DT Construction for Forest Drive in the amount of $58,174.20.
– Budget meetings were set for Oct. 30 and Nov. 1 at 6 p.m.
– Lawhead advised residents to be sure their house numbers are easily visible while the road crew was smoke testing last week and they had to hunt for house numbers.
– Lawhead asked the board if it would be possible to purchase a magnetic manhole lifer at the cost of $1,700. It was decided to ask Clearfield Borough if it would be possible to rent theirs.