Antrim debates police coverage
One week later better news was on the horizon for maintenance costs for Antrim Township Community Park. Administrator Brad Graham told the board last Tuesday that the figure announced the previous week, $120,000, was high. He had spoken to a contractor who was open to mowing the 45 acres for $60-80,000 per year. Supervisors are planning the 2010 budget and debating the value of contracting out all township mowing versus hiring two fulltime people.
Another line item under scrutiny was for police services. Antrim has $600,000 put aside for future services but did not allocate any funds in 2009. Samuel Miller wanted $200,000 back in the budget to prepare for the day Pennsylvania requires each municipality to have its own force, or pay $52 per resident for status quo coverage by Pennsylvania State Police. Some municipal officials in the township and borough believe that day will come soon, others think it will never pass in the legislature.
Miller advocated Nov. 10 that money be placed in a restricted fund for police services. Chairman Curtis Myers preferred to wait until the budget was finished to see if any money was left over. Graham said he and secretary/treasurer Mary Klein had put the fund into the budget but the board could decide whether it stayed in place.
Fred Young III asked if money in the capital reserve fund could be used for a police department. Solicitor John Lisko said yes, "You can declare expenses more urgent than the purpose for which the fund was created."
Miller planned to offer an alternative to expensive funding at a special worksession, set for Nov. 19. "You all want economic development. That and police services go hand in hand."
Citizens he had spoken to wanted local law enforcement, Miller said. Myers and Young said people they had spoken to didn't want it. A long ago plan to poll residents surfaced. The question was how to do that fairly.
Myers didn't trust using the township newsletter, last issued in January. "What's to stop people from making 100 copies?" to sway the results. He suggested putting a box at polling places during the primary election, or coordinating with the federal census in the spring. In the absence of Rick Baer and James Byers, the supervisors decided to put a survey in the next newsletter, using a citizen suggestion to put a watermark on the paper so it could not be duplicated.
The board planned to have the preliminary budget finished by Nov. 24 so it was available for public review for 20 days. Then it could be adopted Dec. 22. That could be the last meeting of the year.
Klein had received information on the census. Townships were urged to inform residents on the importance of responding, as it affected the amount of grant money Antrim could receive. Myers planned to add that to the newsletter. "That's about the best form of communication we got."
Klein also compared the cost effectiveness of adding dental and vision insurance to employees' medical package, and eliminating the $1,500 reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses. In 2008 the township spent $21,730 on reimbursements. The final figures for 2009 weren't in. While not every employee asks for the full return, if they did, Antrim would spend $31,000 per year, she said. In contrast, the added insurance policies would cost $13,500 per year.
The board met in executive session to discuss employee pay raises.