Council focuses on police numbers

Shawn Hardy

Editor’s note: Greencastle Borough Council members were hoping to vote on a preliminary budget at Monday night’s meeting, too late to be included in this edition of the Echo Pilot. For complete information, see the Echo Pilot on Thursday, Dec. 7.

Greencastle Borough Council members want to know what residents want in a police force and how much they are willing to pay for it.

They asked borough residents to share their thoughts at a budget session Thursday evening. No clear directive emerged, but many thoughts, ideas and questions came up during the three-hour meeting which attracted between 35 and 40 people, including residents, property owners and police officers and other borough employees.

The end-of-the year budget deadline is approaching and Borough Manager Eden Ratliff said he hopes there will be a vote on a preliminary spending plan at Monday night’s regular council meeting.


At a budget meeting in November, three scenarios were presented:

Maintaining the current three full-time officers: There would be a $34,677 deficit with revenues of $1,812,087 and expenditures of $1,846,764.

Cutting the department to two full-time officers: The budget would be $19,249 on the plus side with expenditures of $1,792,837.

Expanding the department to four full-time officers: There would be a deficit of $76,000 with expenditures of $1,888,087. Police Chief John Phillippy said, including himself, this would allow 24-7 staffing.

It would take a 1-mill property tax to keep the department at the current level and a 3-mill increase for four officers. The tax rate is 13 mills and each mill generates about $40,000. The average residential taxpayer currently pays $287.09 and each additional mill would translate to $20.51, according to Ratliff.

The numbers reflect a new five-year police contract that includes a 9 percent increase in the first year for the three full-time officers. Although council approved the contract in November, several council members have indicated they think that is too much.

Councilman Charles Eckstine, who conducted the meeting, explained the solicitor estimated costs of $20,000 to $40,000 if contract talks had gone into arbitration and that police usually receive more money after arbitration.

Over the years, council members have been frugal, struggling not to raise taxes, and spending $20,000 to $40,000 would not be good financial stewardship, Eckstine said.

Among the other issues discussed is the use of part-time officers. There are now seven part-time officers and the department is allocated nine. One challenge is the $17 an hour rate, which is lower than other areas departments.

Mayor-elect Ben Thomas, who has experience both as a police officer and in municipal government, spoke about the changes in Greencastle over his five decades, from businesses being open on Sundays to the urban development of more multi-family dwellings.

He plans to announce the Mayor’s Strategic Community Action Plan with police services expectations and short- and long-term planning on Jan. 2.


Long-range planning was another topic that came up several times during the meeting, including maintenance of the signature clock tower.

There is $26,000 in the budget to repaint the clock tower, a project deferred when this year’s budget was approved and the cost was $20,000.

“We’ve been down the road of delaying capital projects,” said Bud O’Mara, who serves on the Greencastle Area, Franklin County, Water Authority, explaining the work ends up costing more.

A more extensive upgrade of the clock tower that would eliminate the need for frequent repainting has been talked about for decades. Incoming Councilman Steve Miller’s suggestion of a fundraising campaign in the Greencastle-Antrim community received support from others at the meeting.