A proposition to contract Meadville Police for patrol services has Vernon Township in Crawford County divided. Wednesday night, they held a public hearing for people to learn more information and ask questions about what’s being proposed.
The City of Meadville has already signed off on this proposal, but before anything is set in stone, Vernon Township gets to make the final decision.
The Vernon Township Police Department in Crawford County currently has three full time patrol officers and a police chief position, which is currently vacant. They patrol 86 miles of public roads in Vernon Township, but not at all times.
There are stints throughout the week that leave the community unpatrolled, and a lack of staffing has the township considering contracting the City of Meadville for police services.
It’s something that had a room divided Wednesday night.
“I think we need officers on the streets, we don’t see them now because we don’t have the manpower with our current coverage,” said Vernon Township resident Dianne Fuller.
It would be a 20-year contract with Meadville. The city currently has 22 full time officers, one of which would patrol Vernon Township at a time for 12-hour shifts.
A big selling point is the 24/7 coverage, something they don’t have now. Officials claim it will save the township more than $5 million during the 20 years.
“The facts are quite clear that you, the taxpayers, will be the ultimate benefactor because this stabilizes Vernon Township’s taxbase,” said Vernon Township Supervisor David Stone.
But one catch that had many people raising eyebrows is that the city police chief has sole control to dictate policing in the township, leaving some feeling like they’d lose their autonomy. The township would also turn over their cruisers to Meadville along with over three million in pension funds they currently have.
“I am opposed to this agreement and if the rest of the board passes it, I will refuse to sign it.” Gary Wagner, a Vernon Township Supervisor said.
But others are refuting, saying the agreement should be fair with checks and balances.
“There is going to be a police commission comprised of one of our supervisors, our township manager, the police chief and the city manager. This gives us that seat at the table,” said Vernon Township resident John Fuller.
Vernon Township will continue to receive feedback from their community before they put this up to a vote of their own.