Borough council reluctant to grant police chief wishes

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot

With the regular Feb. 4 Greencastle Borough Council meeting about over, member Harry Foley brought up a few issues that extended the session another hour. He, Wade Burkholder and Matt Smith served on the Public Safety Committee, and were concerned about requests made by chief of police John Phillippy. The committee had considered the proposals, and wanted input from the full council. Charles Eckstine, James Farley and Craig Myers gave their opinions, but Frank Webster Jr. had to leave the meeting early.

Phillippy, who was not present, had asked that the borough purchase an SUV to replace a squad car. Council was split on whether an SUV, a standard cruiser, or no purchase at all was the better route to go. Myers did not believe an SUV was safe, with its higher base of gravity, in case a pursuit ever took place. It was also more unwieldy on town streets. He also thought the current fleet was "piecemeal", with each vehicle made by a different manufacturer. He supported a long-range plan that defined the standards as each vehicle was replaced.

Borough manager Susan Armstrong said the cruisers were a tight fit for the officers, because of the interior space, and more equipment becoming commonplace inside. Smith said Pennsylvania State Police had just ordered hundreds of the traditionally-sized cruisers. Mayor Bob Eberly and Eckstine wondered if a replacement was necessary at all, since they had seen squad cars idling for hours outside the station. In addition, the number of fulltime officers had been reduced, and hours cut for the force.

Armstrong said she would ask Phillippy to bring more information justifying his request for an SUV to the next meeting.

Foley said the chief also wanted Greencastle to join the Chambersburg SWAT team. That would entail paying for one officer's training two days a month, plus expenses when called out approximately 12 times a year. Though the idea received a lukewarm response, Myers said it was a good idea.

"You don't prepare for what might happen, you prepare for when it happens," he said.

Eberly thought the need for Chambersburg's Special Emergency Team or Pennsylvania State Police's State Emergency Response Team was low.

"We can't afford to protect people from every contingency," said Eckstine. "It's like buying insurance. When do you have enough? I feel a responsibility to get the most out of every tax dollar."

While everyone agreed they could not put a price on the value of a life, they wanted to see the true cost to the borough if it sponsored an officer for SET or SERT.

Appointments

Council appointed members to the Sidewalk and Curb Board of Appeals. Jason Gerhart, a physical engineer, was assigned a three-year term; James Jones, a civil engineer, a four-year term; and Jeremy Timmons, experienced with construction, a five-year term. All are residents of Greencastle.  The council hoped to find one more person to serve as an alternate.

Emile Charest was appointed to the Zoning Hearing Board, to fill the last two years of the term of the late Greg Overcash. Charest, Greencastle, is a retired mechanical engineer.

Other business

A permanent policy for Borough Trick or Treat Night was established as the Thursday preceding Halloween, or Thursday, Oct. 31 when applicable, from 6 to 8 p.m. Borough staff said it received inquiries on the date early each year, as organizations set their calendar of events, and parents planned when to take time off.

The 2013 Bulky Item Drop Off Days were set for Friday, May 3, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturday, May 4, 7 to 10:30 a.m. Residents may bring items to the borough lot on Mifflin Lane.

Armstrong said public works manager Dave Nichols was holding Wexcon Inc. to task. The company tore up West Franklin Street during installation of a water main for Greencastle Area Franklin County Water Authority, and had not put it back to its original state. Council members have complained about the "craters" left in place on the short but busy street.

Foley said that with the Norfolk Southern terminal now operational in Antrim Township, the community had "been sold a bill of goods." The rail company had promised truck traffic on I-81 would be reduced as the intermodal facility hauled their freight instead. Since the trucks had to travel into Antrim to transfer their loads, Farley agreed the traffic would be down "everywhere except around here."