Frustrations over policing dispute show

From left, Char Gray, East Buffalo Township representative to the Buffalo Valley Regional Police Commission, replies to David Heayn, Lewisburg resident at the Wednesday night commission meeting. James Murphy, newly named EBT alternate, is at right.

LEWISBURG — Citizens attending the Buffalo Valley Regional Police Commission meeting Wednesday brought questions regarding the ongoing dispute involving member municipalities.

David Heayn, of Lewisburg, asked what led to the initial agreement (IGA) to contain an apportionment formula of 52% from East Buffalo Township versus 48% from Lewisburg Borough. Heayn is also a member of Lewisburg Borough Council.

Judy Wagner, commission member and Lewisburg mayor, replied more than half a dozen funding formulas provided by the Department of Community and Economic Development were considered. Wagner participated in the earliest studies which led to the forming of the regional department.

“Each one of them came out (EBT) 56%, (Lewisburg) 44% no matter what kind of parameters we used,” Wagner recalled. “Finally, we said this is not fair to (EBT). Let’s go 52% to 48% and that was agreed upon because it was the fairest to both entities.”

Wagner said the issues were difficult and admitted the IGA is not easily understood. Other challenges included how the health insurance for retired East Buffalo personnel would be paid for.

BVRPD Chief Paul Yost responded to Heayn by noting other regional departments in the state consider road miles covered and assessed values of property as well as overall need of an area in determining funding percentages each year. He added that two additional municipalities were involved in the study at the start.

Complications ensued as they dropped out.

“They had to regroup and restudy all those numbers,” Yost said. “They took all the factors of East Buffalo and all the factors of Lewisburg and as (Wagner) said they came up with several formulas (which) a lot of times weighed heavier on East Buffalo than Lewisburg. It was decided based the other applying factors and things coming in that a fair market value was a 52% to 48% split of the cost of regional service.”

Wagner, Susan Mahon of Lewisburg and Char Gray, an East Buffalo Township representative, began a discussion of Police Protection Unit funding of services which was interrupted by solicitor Brian Kerstetter. He noted, as he had at the beginning of the meeting, that the matter could not be litigated at the commission table. Whether litigation could be a pivot point to revise and improve the IGA which formed the department he cited as conjecture.

Lewisburg Borough recently asked the Court of Common Pleas for a declaratory judgment in the matter, claiming that EBT has ignored the “plain language” of the IGA and violated basic contract principles and other matters. The commission was also named in the suit.

Staff Writer Matt Farrand can be reached at 570-742-9671 and via email at matt@standard-journal.com.

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