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Plainfield Twp. supervisors cite money as reason police presence cut back at Wind Gap Middle School

By Len Righi, WFMZ.com Reporter
Published On: Apr 04 2013 12:42:30 PM CDT
Wind Gap Middle School

69 News

PLAINFIELD TWP., Pa. -

Supervisors in one Northampton County municipality say it's a matter of dollars and cents that led to a decision to limit police presence at a middle school.

Plainfield Township supervisors said in a statement Wednesday that they phoned the Pen Argyl Area School District superintendent last June and told him they could no longer afford paying a resources officer at the Wind Gap Middle School because of "budget issues," unless the district took on some of the cost.

The supervisors said they could afford having police at the middle school only when pupils were arriving or departing, or in an emergency, according to the statement.

The statement says after the district said it could not "assist significantly" with the cost of the resources officer, the new policy was put into place last August.

The statement notes the township spends more money each year on public safety than on any other department, but also says, "The school district is primarily responsible for the security of its buildings and students."

On Thursday morning, township supervisor Jane Mellert declined to say how much the resources officer was costing the township, or what amount, if any, the district offered to pay to keep him at the middle school.

Pen Argyl Area School District Supt. William Haberl said Thursday that he did not know how much the resources officer was costing Plainfield. "I have no way of knowing that," he said. "They paid him, not us."

Asked if the supervisors ever suggested that the district pay a specific amount or a percentage of the officer's salary, Haberl replied, "We never got that far," adding that the negotiations "just never worked out."

The issue of having the township's police presence at the middle school flared anew this week, after the disclosure on Tuesday of a March 28 internal memo from the supervisors to Police Chief Dean Ceraul and the 12 men in his department.

The memo points out "numerous officers have been observed at the [middle] school for long periods of time without being called for an emergency." It says this is "in direct violation" of the board's instructions, and if the chief or any officer does not comply with the instructions, he will be suspended or fired.

While Chief Ceraul declined to comment on the memo to WFMZ.com on Tuesday, Supt. Haberl called it "unbelievable" and "absurd," after it had been read to him.

Haberl said he had spoken with Chief Ceraul about ways to maintain a police presence at the middle school after the supervisors' decision last August, adding that the Plainfield officers "walk around and talk to the kids" at the middle school. "It's part of their [work] day," Haberl noted. "It's recorded in their daily log."

The supervisors' statement Wednesday said they had never been informed, "formally or informally," of any "agreement" between the district and township police.