For the second time since disbanding its three-officer police force six years ago, Myerstown Borough is thinking of reviving it to end its reliance on the Pennsylvania State Police.
To get an idea of residents’ opinions, the borough will hold an outdoor “Town Hall Meeting” on Monday, August 17, 2020 at 7:00 p.m. in the Myerstown Community Center rear parking lot at 101 South Railroad Street.
Due to increasing costs, Myerstown effectively dropped its police force by not replacing officers when they retired. The last of the three officers retired in April 2014, and the borough has since relied on the Pennsylvania State Police for coverage.
About two thirds of Pennsylvania municipalities have no local police, relying instead on PSP for full or part time coverage, at no direct cost to municipality taxpayers. Earlier this year, the Wolf administration floated the idea of charging municipalities for PSP coverage, and was met with opposition from Republican lawmakers.
In 2019, the borough considered re-forming the force, contracting for coverage with a neighboring municipality, or becoming part of a regional police force. Ultimately, the borough took no action.
Asked why Myerstown is again thinking of forming its own police force, Borough Manager Michael McKenna told LebTown that “while the PSP do a fantastic job and the Borough appreciates and respects their service, they simply do not have the resources or the authority to provide a desired level of police presence in the Borough.”
“There are important services that only a local force can provide, including the enforcement of local ordinances, which PSP cannot do.”
“The Borough has also recognized an increase in crime,” noted McKenna, who shared the following statistics:
- 542: Calls to PSP in 2016 from Myerstown Borough
- 699: Calls to PSP in 2017 from Myerstown Borough
- 838: Calls to PSP in 2018 from Myerstown Borough
A local police force would likely improve call response times. The county’s only PSP barracks is in Lickdale, over 15 miles and a roughly 25 minute drive from Myerstown.
Police coverage won’t be free
In an email to LebTown, McKenna was blunt: “The Borough understands it will have to make a significant investment if it creates a Police Department. The Borough also recognizes that in order to afford such an investment, it will require a combination of raising taxes and cutting services to make it feasible. The public meeting will let Borough Officials . . . hear directly from the community to help determine if this is the direction the citizens and taxpayers truly want to go.”
A parking lot meeting?
According to McKenna, council members don’t think a call-in meeting via Zoom will result in the level of feedback they need, and the 25 person COVID-19 limit on indoor gatherings is far less than the anticipated attendance. Current restrictions allow outdoor gatherings of up to 250 people, so the community center’s parking lot was an obvious choice. A tent will be set up in case of bad weather.
To keep attendance under 250, McKenna requests that only borough residents and taxpayers attend.
McKenna noted that “we will follow CDC social distancing guidelines by requiring masks to be worn, placing seating spaced at least 6 feet apart, and placing hand sanitizing stations in several locations around the parking lot. We also may require a temperature check of all attendees.”
If you’re planning on going
- WHEN: Monday, August 17, 2020 at 7:00 p.m.
- WHERE: Myerstown Community Center rear parking lot, 101 S. Railroad Street, Myerstown, PA. 17067
- SOCIAL DISTANCING MEASURES: State guidelines require masks to be worn at all times in public spaces. The meeting will be subject to CDC social distancing guidelines, which also require masks. Seating will be spaced at least 6 feet apart, and hand sanitizing stations will be in several locations around the parking lot. The borough may require a temperature check of all attendees.
Can’t make it?
Borough manager McKenna said “We will also provide an email for residents and taxpayers if they are unable to attend the meeting but want to share their comments.”
The Borough also maintains a contact page on its website.
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