Twp. talks safety Regional police update, county radio costs, fire police shortage

By on January 25, 2012

By: GARY P. KLINGER Record Express Correspondent, Staff Writer

Various public safety concerns were a main topic of discussion Jan. 18 when Warwick Township supervisors held their evening meeting.

Supervisors were updated on the progress being made by the recently formed Northern Lancaster County Regional Police Department, or NLCRPD. In a report submitted to the supervisors, Chief David Steffen noted that so far the transition into a regional force has been smooth sailing. Currently, the force is working through various transitional pieces, including standardizing health insurance and further development of standardized administrative functions. Previously, Steffen has explained that one goal of this phase of the new department is to use this standardization to help improve efficiency and reduce duplication of efforts.

Supervisors also discussed the upcoming countywide radio upgrade project. Plans call for all county police and fire to upgrade to the same radio system so that in the event of a major event, such as a flood or hurricane, efforts could be better coordinated.

Questions, however, continue to swirl with regard to the cost of the program. To date, the exact radio platform and system has not been determined. Without that information, it is next to impossible for local police and fire units to have some idea what the systems will cost, let alone secure any possible grant money which might help to defray the financial burden.

Supervisor Michael Vigunas questioned township manager Dan Zimmerman regarding what the other two township members of the NLCRPD, Clay and Penn, had put toward the project.

Zimmerman gave supervisors a glimpse of the financial challenges ahead.

"They have both put some money behind for use on the radios," he said, "but moving forward, none of us are exactly sure what we will be purchasing yet. As technology continues to improve, the costs don’t always go down."

Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Logan Myers questioned whether or not radios would even still be around 10 years from now. Supervisor Herb Flosdorf concurred.

"It’s a lot like buying a new computer," said Flosdorf. "It’s out of date the minute you buy it."

Upgrading the county’s 911 radios system is expected to cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars. Just the base units alone are expected to range from $5,000 to $7,000. Flosdorf said he would expect that county wide the cost could exceed $1 million.

Lancaster County is not alone in working to upgrade their radio system. Zimmerman noted that Berks and York counties had already completed their upgrade and that most other counties are doing the same. He conceded, however, that during these challenging times financially, some counties have backed away from an upgrade due to the cost.

That raised still further questions of Zimmerman regarding the true need for such an upgrade at this time.

"I cannot recall where the current system has caused a problem or a lack of communication," Flosdorf said, challenging others on the board, perhaps even rhetorically, to provide any concrete examples where the system had failed. "I guess it is the age-old question: Which risk model do you follow and at what cost?"

In other public safety related township news, supervisors continued their discussion on the use of fire police. One thing which continues to be a challenge for the local fire police is the ever-increasing roster of events which call for the use of the volunteers to help with traffic control.

Zimmerman said he feels it may be time to distinguish between local and non-local requests in the face of the increasing demand.

"There seems to always be a new road race," commented Zimmerman. He noted the efforts to move the more local requests from taking place along township roadways to better utilizing the rail-trails for the same events.

Where Lititz Borough has officially disbanded its fire police largely due to a lack of volunteers willing and able to come forward to serve, Warwick Township has no less of a challenge. Better utilizing the rail-trails could help cut down on the number of fire police needed. Another option could be to require especially non-local events to hire their own private group (such as Flagger Force or Adecco) to provide the same service.

"Don’t take this wrong, but should we not charge a significant fee and then put that toward improving the trails and then move many of these events onto the trails," questioned Flosdorf. "This would provide a safe efficient route through the township. Charge everyone; why wouldn’t you?"

"We don’t have an obligation to exhaust the township resources no matter how nice the people are or how nice the roads are," he added.

Zimmerman said that currently township event requests were on track to outnumber even Manor Township. With mixed feedback from motorists regarding the impact the various road races have on traffic, he questioned whether another consideration might be to limit the number of events which could be held per year and have sponsors bid for approval.

"Keep in mind that our roads are for traffic, not for use as recreational facilities," added Flosdorf. "I’m not sure we should be using the roads for recreational activities."

Supervisors are appreciative of the fact the township has become a destination of choice in drawing these events, but at the same time have expressed an obligation to consider all factors, from the impact on traffic to the impact on the volunteer fire police.

Supervisor Tony Chivinski suggested routing might be part of the solution.

"Could we regulate what routes might be available for such events," said Chivinski. "We could offer several possible routes to choose from and disallow any that want something different."

"We could also allow the fire police to accept or deny which ones they are willing (and able) to cover," suggested Myers.

Supervisors have committed to continuing the discussion before making any final decision. More WARWICK TOWNSHIP, page A16