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Maxatawny police department looks like a long shot

By Greg Didyoung, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Jun 05 2013 09:08:29 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 06 2013 08:03:05 AM CDT

Majority of residents in Maxatawny Twp. against creating police force

MAXATAWNY TWP., Pa. -

Township supervisors cast doubt for a township police force following overwhelming opposition from area residents during Wednesday night's meeting.

A survey conducted within the Berks Co.  township revealed that 81 percent of residents were opposed to creating their own police force.

Previously, the township mailed letters to each resident asking them whether they would support a property tax increase to fund a township police department.

Since Berks-Lehigh disbanded at the end of last year, the township has relied on state police coverage to keep the community safe.

Of the 1,652 letters mailed out 1,060 responded with 858 residents saying no. While an overwhelming majority of residents opposed the idea, 17 percent said yes and supervisors wanted to explore all options before voting no. Supervisor Mel Fishburn said "this survey isn't the final answer but gives us a clear direction of what residents want."

Resident Danny Hinkel spoke in favor of a township police force saying, "we need our own force. Cars get parked illegally in front of my house and nobody is there to enforce it."

Supervisor Justin Yaich was quick to point out that many opposed like the idea of their own police department, but couldn't afford new taxes to pay for it.

A full time force of eight officers would need require nearly a million dollars in additional taxes.

"People can't afford any more taxes. Some said they could lose their homes," Yaich said.

Resident and former supervisor Norman Adam asked about the possibility of a partnership with Kutztown, "we don't need a full-time police force. We need a police force that's close by, one that's 10 minutes away, not an hour away like state police.  We could buy time from Kutztown borough. They get more officers to patrol their town while we get the quick response time in the event of an emergency."

While Adam's idea seemed appealing to many, Chairman Allen Leiby questioned the expense, "wouldn't we need to still raise taxes to pay for that?"

Leiby said the resident's voices have been heard and added that nothing has been ruled out so far.

Fishburn agreed to meet with Kutztown within the next month to discuss what, if any, alternatives could be ironed out.

"I'll make an appointment with Kutztown and by next meeting I'll come back with a proposal and a cost," Fishburn said."

While there is no exact timeline for a decision, Leiby noted the township is still safe with state coverage: "We still have a low crime rate. We are a safe community even with state police coverage."