Covering just under half a square mile of Lower Bucks, Penndel Borough currently employs ten part-time officers.
Tuesday night, Penndel officials will discuss whether or not to phase out this police force in favor of a contract with Middletown Township. Under the proposed agreement, Penndel would save upwards of $100,000 a year over having a stand-alone department, according to council president Kali Sodano.
“Technology changes every year,” she said. “We have to keep up with the computers, the cars and the body cameras, there’s all different kind of stuff to keep the men safe out there.”
The proposal calls for a 10-year contract with Middletown, during which costs to Penndel would be capped. If any increases were needed they couldn’t go up more than 4.5 percent a year, according to Sodano. That’s in contrast to the current cost increases of 11 percent a year.
Critics of the plan, including Mayor Robert Winkler, have cried foul. Last week, Winkler accused the borough council of violating the state’s public transparency laws in discussing the plan.
“I question how these negotiations could have taken place without any public notification or vote,” wrote Winkler in a complaint to the Bucks County District Attorney, according to reports by LevittownNow. “It appears, based on the media coverage, that a plan has already been formulated by the Penndel Council and the Middletown Board of Supervisors.”
Tuesday night’s meeting will be the first public discussion of the plan, which the council may bring to a vote the same night.
Sodano rejects any accusations of foul play, saying the executive meetings were necessary due to conditions of the police department’s contract with the borough. Borough solicitor Mike Savona would have spoken up if executive meetings were not kosher, according to Sodano.
“I don’t see him letting us have some type of violation without a red flag being waved immediately,” she said.
Not surprisingly, police officers have spoken out against the plan. None returned request for comment for this story, but told local papers that the move comes after complaints about poor working conditions were ignored and officers agreed to compromise on raises in order to secure a new contract, according to LevittownNow.
If Penndel approves the proposal, Middletown officials will also have to vote for the 10-year contract to become official.