Posted by Reblog: Lehigh Valley News.
The township, after not accepting a budget increase, is looking at police alternatives.
In December, supervisors rejected the police department’s $3.39 million budget for 2014, while Bath and Hanover Township, Northampton County, the other two members of the regional police force, approved it.
Officials from each municipality serve on the Colonial Regional Police Commission, although Bath council, Lower Nazareth supervisors and Hanover supervisors each vote separately on the budget. The approved budget for 2014 is 4 percent higher than 2013, largely due to the addition of a 25th police officer.
Lower Nazareth’s rejection of the budget triggered its intent to withdraw from the regional force. If it does not rescind the withdrawal, Lower Nazareth would have to secure other police services by 2015.
Police commission Chairman Glenn Walbert, a Hanover supervisor, said losing Lower Nazareth’s contribution to the force would mean layoffs. Officer Andrew Laudenslager told supervisors that the Colonial Regional officers are very concerned over this possibility.
Laudenslager addressed supervisors at their Wednesday night meeting and said he is president of the Colonial Regional Police Association and represents the officers of the department. Ten officers attended the meeting in a show of support for Laudenslager, who asked some questions and read a prepared statement.
“I strongly urge the board to accept the 2014 budget,” Laudenslager said. “And allow our department to operate as the great department that it is and to continue to serve the citizens of Lower Nazareth Township.”
Lower Nazareth Supervisor Eric Nagle has been opposed to accepting the budget without first conducting a study into the costs of police alternatives such as an in-house department or receiving state police coverage.
“We’re trying to analyze where our tax dollars are going,” Nagle said. “This has nothing to do with the quality of Colonial Regional. They are the best in the state.”
Laudenslager questioned the qualifications of Timm Tenges, the township manager assigned with conducting the police services study.
“What qualifications are needed?” Tenges asked rhetorically. “I know how to do a budget.”
”But if you switch police services, we will lose our jobs over it,” Laudenslager said. “Lower Nazareth is holding every officer in this department hostage over your unknown future plans.”
Tenges said he is doing everything he can to quickly complete the study. He said he hopes to have the analysis completed by the end of March.
“Law enforcement is about serving and protecting the citizens of a community,” Laudenslager said. “Not getting something because it’s offered at the cheapest rate.”