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State police station may close Would impact police coverage in Elizabeth Twp.
By: MELINDA ELMER Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer
The Ephrata barracks of the Pennsylvania State Police could be closing, according to Sgt. Erin Magee of Ephrata’s Troop J.
"I have not been given any sort of time frame other than ‘the near future’," Magee told Elizabeth Township supervisors Monday.
"It all comes down to money," he explained.
The state police were told to keep their budgets at a zero increase across the board for the next fiscal year. The largest budget item is salaries and benefits for the officers, whose contracts call for small yearly increases. But zero budget increases plus annual pay increases and the ever-increasing cost of insurance does not balance out.
"The Pennsylvania State Police are currently 400 troopers short across the state," Magee said. The Ephrata Barracks has four fewer troopers than last year.
The next class of 115 prospective state police troopers will enter the police academy in June for the 10-month training. There is currently no class in the academy.
"Without the money to put troopers through the academy and retain current troopers (downsizing will happen)," Magee explained. And, state police are currently in contract negotiations.
"One thousand (troopers) could retire yesterday," Magee said, meaning that they are eligible for retirement but have not yet taken that step. "If contract negotiations go sour, a lot of men and women will retire."
Troop J is on the chopping block because it effectively lost 40 percent of its work load since the beginning of the year. Those troopers had covered Rapho Township full-time and Clay Township part-time. Rapho is now being covered by Manheim Borough Police, and Clay is now part of the Northern Lancaster County Regional Police Department.
Magee went on to explain that Elizabeth Township is like an island surrounded by municipalities that have their own local police coverage. The state police cover most of the municipalities in the southern part of the county, while the northern boroughs and townships that surround Elizabeth Township tend to have their own officers. If the Ephrata barracks that currently covers Elizabeth Township does close, Troop J would be broken up and its officers would likely join the Lancaster or Reading stations, or the Chester County barracks. Some support staff would become redundant. There was no word on how those support positions would be handled.
Magee said he Google-mapped the drive time to the Elizabeth Township municipal building from both the Ephrata and Lancaster barracks. It is 12 minutes from Ephrata and more than twice that, 28 minutes, from Lancaster.
"But that’s in ideal conditions," said township secretary Rita Snavely.
"It looks like a strong possibility that (the Ephrata barracks closure) is going to happen unless the politicians come through with the funding," Magee said.
Elizabeth Township Supervisor Chairman Brian Wiker asked what could be done.
"My main concern right now is to make people aware that this (closure) is a possibility," Magee replied.
He suggested that concerned residents call or write the state police as well as their state representatives and senators.
"Please call," Magee said. "Both Rep. Gordon Denlinger and Sen. Mike Brubaker are against closing the barracks, but they need to hear from residents."
Wiker asked Snavely to draft a letter to Rep. Tom Creighton and Brubaker stating the township’s desire to keep the Ephrata barracks open. Supervisor Jeff Burkholder suggested also sending the letter to Governor Tom Corbett.
Magee noted that the local troopers currently have "more manpower for less area." The troopers therefore have the time to follow leads and make arrests. For instance, in an area where they used to see eight to 10 burglaries, they are now seeing only one or two because the drug addict is no longer on the streets burglarizing homes and cars.
Resident Gordon Wagner said, "It looks like a total lack of planning on the state’s part. What could be more of a priority than having a police department? I’d hate to lose the (state) police. I think we have excellent coverage."
Wagner went on to ask then supervisors to "write a very terse letter to protect our police department."
Wiker said, "It seems to me that the state is saving their budget and pushing more and more onto the municipalities, and forcing more and more regulations on the municipalities. They like making rules, but not paying for them."
"I concur," said Burkholder.
In other township business:
Elizabeth Township Supervisors enacted a burning ban, as requested by Brickerville Fire Chief Sid Adams, in effect until further notice. Because of recent weather conditions, no outdoor burning may take place, including trash burning and campfires.
The supervisors received a letter from a resident of Blantz Road suggesting that the speed limit is too high and requesting a traffic study. Currently there is no posted speed limit, effectively making the limit 55 mph on the rural residential road.
The church and school have added additional traffic and some people use the road as a short-cut, the resident alleged.
Chairman Wiker said, "I’ll speak as a resident here; I live on Blantz Road. I know that sometimes when I back out of my driveway, I have somebody on my bumper by the time I get going again."
The supervisors voted to authorize Road Superintendent Glenn Martin to perform a traffic study. Wiker abstained.
Elizabeth Twp. Park
Work continues on the pavilion and restroom facility at Elizabeth Township Park. After discussion, the supervisors voted to not install rain spouting at this time because of the cost of stormwater management trenches that would be required if the spouts are installed. The trenches are not required without spouts. Supervisor Rodney May cast a dissenting vote.
May said, "If we require citizens to (install storm water management facilities), we should, too."
Wiker said, "Most residents don’t have retention ponds on their properties. To me, it’s ridiculous to put in more trenches. I agree with putting the spouting up, but not with the cost of the trenches. It’s insane."
In other park business, the road crew has been planting trees, some to replace those that have died and others that have been donated. They also added mulch to the ga ga pit, which seems to be getting a lot of use. Baseball and soccer fields will be used by youth leagues throughout the upcoming seasons.
Looking to the coming picnic season, the supervisors set the cost of renting the pavilion and one ball field at $65. The pavilion is still under construction; the cement should be poured by the end of this month and construction should be completed before the end of summer. Contact the municipal office at 626-4302 for rental information.
The Brickerville Fire Company responded to seven fire calls, 18 ambulance calls and six fire police incidents in March.
The zoning officer issued five permits in March for work valued at $104,077.
The sewage enforcement officer issued permits for one new system, one repair and two modifications in March. He performed two tests.
The monthly collection of recyclables will be on Saturday, May 5 from 8 a.m. to noon at the municipal building on South View Drive.
The planning commission will meet on April 19 and on May 2 at 7 p.m.
The board of supervisors will meet on Monday, May 14 at 7 p.m. at the municipal building at 423 South View Drive, Brickerville.
A chicken barbecue will be held at the Brickerville Fire Hall on Saturday, April 14, from 10 a.m. until the chicken is sold-out.
The Tour de Lititz road race will run through Elizabeth Township on Saturday, April 28, from approximately 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.
The Penn Township/Pleasant View Retirement Village Community Day will be on Saturday, May 5, from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Penryn Fire Company’s Tour of Penryn celebration will be on Saturday, June 16 from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.
The Third Annual Rec Alliance Bike Ride will be on Sunday, June 24.
Penryn Fire Company’s Parade will be on Saturday, Sept. 15.
The Lititz recCenter’s summer playground program will be held two mornings and one evening a week this year. More information will be available closer to the start date. More ELIZABETH TWP., page A16