An acrimonious West York Council heard Monday night from residents who overwhelmingly support keeping the borough's police department.

The crowd turned out after the council voted 4-3 earlier this month to seek proposals from other police jurisdictions to contract for police coverage. Some council members have said they want to keep their options open and see what other departments have to offer.

Council president Steven Herman, who ordered the meeting moved from the borough building to nearby Reliance Fire Company because of a standing-room-only crowd, told the audience: "We are here to listen to what you have to say. We are not here to argue with you or answer questions."

West York council member Brian Wilson told the crowd of residents who are against the borough possibly contracting out for police service that the council
West York council member Brian Wilson told the crowd of residents who are against the borough possibly contracting out for police service that the council should not "dictate to" its constituents. (YORK DAILY RECORD/SUNDAY NEWS -- JASON PLOTKIN)

With gavel in hand, Herman kept the dozen or so public speakers in focus.

Former Mayor Charles Slenker was among those who spoke out against closing the borough police department.

"There a 101 reasons why it is not good," Slenker said. "I can't believe that council would just decide to get rid of the police department."

To applause, Slenker suggested putting the question on contracting police coverage up for a referendum vote.

Trudy Doll said the fact that the borough had its own police, fire and road maintenance departments figured strongly in her decision to move to West York despite its higher taxes. She asked if she was going to get a rebate if those departments were closed.

"I was OK with paying higher taxes when I had that," she said. "I'm not OK with paying higher taxes without that."

Nathan Stewart, whose Highland Avenue residence borders the city, said he is concerned for his family, and how long it may take York City Police to respond.

"You guys are turning this place into the city," he said.

After speaking before the council, Stewart said he has had problems with teens using drugs behind his house. He said council members "have lost touch" with the people they are supposed to represent.

Council members Brian Wilson and Dawn Shue also spoke at the end of the public comment session. Wilson backed Slenker's call for a referendum vote.

"We are not dictators at this table," he said. "We should not be telling people what they are going to get. I am ashamed of the things happening at this table."

Shue told the audience a recent YorkCounts study showed that West York and the city were the two entities that would not benefit financially by contracting out police coverage.

After the meeting, Mayor Sam Firestone said it was "council's decision to look at all the options."

Herman said the deadline for proposals is March 4. He said the borough has not at this time received any proposals. He said, in the meantime, the council would like to begin negotiations with the police and fire unions whose contracts expire in 2013.

Mario Eckert, business agent with Teamsters Local 776, which represents the police department, said the council's decision to seek proposals from other jurisdictions was "a bit of a surprise."

He said he would not expect the borough to outsource the police coverage until the union's contract ends at the end of the year. Otherwise, it would be a breach of contract.

"We're just in a holding pattern to see what happens," he said.

York to offer proposal

York Mayor Kim Bracey said Monday that the city will present West York with a "comprehensive package" of what possible city police coverage would look like, including costs for the borough, and services provided.

"I support it. I've been a proponent of regionalization and believe that's the way for this area," she said. "We're definitely going to apply, to provide a package and see."

Bracey said she can relate to the borough's likely struggle to keep up with rising costs and fund its police services.

"It's not just the cities that are struggling," the mayor said. "I can't imagine they're not suffering from the same financial ills as the city sees. I have to commend them for their forward thinking."

York Daily Record / Sunday News reporter Tim Stonesifer contributed to this report.

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