Councilmen, public want to see more officers on duty

Last updated: January 25. 2014 12:09AM - 1767 Views
By - smocarsky@timesleader.com

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Ashley Borough Council meets next for a work session at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 4 at the Ashley Fire Hall on Ashley Street, with a special meeting to immediately follow.


• Council voted to open the 2014 budget for discussion and the opportunity to amend it. The budget can be viewed at the municipal building on Main Street.

Councilman Donald Sipple announced that this year, council will hold a work session the first Tuesday of each month in preparation for a meeting the following week. The budget will be discussed at the February work session and voted on either at a special meeting immediately afterwards or at the regular meeting on Feb. 11.

Councilman Frank Sorokach explained to the audience that comment on the budget is welcome. For example, he said he found at least $61,000 in spending in the police budget that he disagrees with. Later, he suggested looking at increasing cable franchise fees the borough collects from the cable television provider, as the contract is up for renewal soon.

Sorokach said “after this meeting, we’re going to be talking about the budget” in executive session. Questioned on the legality of that after the meeting, solicitor Bill Vinsko said he would instruct council that state law does not permit budget discussion in a meeting that’s closed to the public.

• Sorokach also said a representative of the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority offered to have the authority clean three sewers in the borough each month at a cost of $500 per month. It would require amending the budget by creating a line item for the expenditure if council decided to accept the offer.

• Councilman Gerald Maldonado said tractor-trailer drivers looking for Preston Drive in Hanover Industrial Park in Hanover Township often wind up on Preston Street in Ashley, causing a major traffic disruption in the neighborhood’s narrow streets, because some GPS navigation systems confuse the two. He said someone in Harrisburg suggested that the borough change the name of the street. Council wants to look at other alternatives.

ASHLEY — Crime is rising in Ashley, according to a borough councilman.

Some folks want more police on duty, but the question is: Can the borough’s budget handle it?

“I believe our crime rate in the borough is starting to rise,” Councilman Joseph McGlynn Jr. said at a special council meeting on Friday.

McGlynn, who is also fire chief, said there have been two armed robberies and two incidents of shots fired at different locations this month. One of the incidents involved a man using an automatic weapon in a drive-by shooting.

Newly elected Mayor David Evans said the police department is “in the process of bringing three people back.”

Councilwoman Sharon Keefe said the borough needs a minimum of two officers per shift, especially on weekend nights. The borough typically has one officer on duty per shift. Several members of the public voiced agreement.

Councilman Frank Sorokach said it “bothers” him that Hanover Township police responded to the two armed robberies in Ashley before Ashley police. “I want to find out why that’s happened.”

Police Chief John Bell said both occurrences “can be fully explained.”

Sorokach said he never heard an explanation.

Bell replied that was because he was never asked for one.

Council members and members of the public asked for an explanation, but Bell said he would explain it to council “in closed session” because “it’s involving a safety issue and procedures of the department on a budget that we can’t operate on. It needs to be done behind closed doors.”

Some residents complained that they never see police patrolling their streets.

Council President Donald Sipple said Ashley police responded to 1,731 incidents in 2012 and 2,186 in 2013. He said that as of Thursday, there were 163 incidents this year, three of them “serious and violent in nature.”

Sipple said it’s not that police aren’t patrolling, it’s that they’re often responding to incidents and, when they’re not, they’re completing paperwork at the station.

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