Hempfield supervisors halt formation of public safety commission, ask for more information
Hempfield supervisors halted formation of a proposed public safety commission before an ordinance and bylaws could be drafted, asking for more information about the logistics of the operation.
The goal of the commission, which was proposed in January, is to make recommendations regarding public safety policy and service levels and present them to council. The body would include the Bureau of Fire that was formed last year and a state police representative, since Hempfield doesn’t have its own police department.
Supervisors hope to hash out the finer details in March, giving them a chance to ask questions and decide the role the commission will play.
“I think we should look for a short-term commission … for long-term benefits,” Supervisor John Silvis said, noting the Wolf administration’s proposal to charge a per capita fee for state police coverage in municipalities that don’t have their own force. “I think we’re rushing into this too fast and too soon. I don’t know if it’s because of the police issue or what, but I think we should take a step back and take our time on this.”
On Monday, Silvis and supervisors Doug Weimer and Tom Logan voted against taking steps to form the commission, overruling supervisors Chairman George Reese and Robert Ritson. Silvis and Logan asked for further details on the number of members that would sit on the board and how many township staff would be part of it.
Weimer suggested the public safety commission could upend the Bureau of Fire.
“I think that our priority was clear here a few years ago about the fire service,” Weimer said. “I think that this, in my opinion, will take away from that focus and I think jeopardize all the work that we did with bolstering our commitment to the volunteers and to our volunteer fire service. So, I have apprehensions.”
Several firefighters voiced support for the public safety commission, including Greg Saunders, chief of the Bovard Volunteer Fire Department.
Weimer suggested that, to address policing, a task force could be formed if needed, and that members of township staff are trained to discuss policing needs.
Conceptual plans for the body focused on six key areas — fire, emergency management, public safety and security, emergency medical, inspection and codes and health and wellness.
Township officials originally suggested the board would be made up of volunteers from the medical, legal, insurance, business or education fields in order to give “expert” advice on certain topics.
Monday’s vote was just the first step in the process, said township Manager Jason Winters. Supervisors will discuss the commission during the March workshop and public meeting.
“There’s more to public safety than just the fire department,” Reese said. “We have to be more forward-thinking.”
Megan Tomasic is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, [email protected] or via Twitter .