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Everson to study additional policing

| Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2007

Everson Borough will study the effects of additional policing in the borough since some residents are unwilling to accept a tax increase.

Council passed a motion, presented Monday by Councilman Neil Stevens, that requests President Mike Banaszak appoint a committee to study the legitimacy of a petition, containing more than 200 names, that asks council to rescind a 2-mill tax increase dedicated to the police department. The committee would review increasing part-time police hours and study the viability of a police department compared with other borough needs such as street maintenance.

Banaszak appointed Stevens, Eric Christner, Randy Smith and Mayor Tim Shoemaker to the committee. The committee will present its preliminary findings at the March council meeting.

Because this is not a reorganization year, council is forbidden by state law from rescinding the millage increase, which will appear on the next tax bills.

Although the petition does not have any legal standing, Banaszak suggested putting a referendum on November's ballot asking voters whether they want to continue paying the increased property tax.

"If they vote it down, the (2008) budget will not include the 2 mills and we'll determine where to go," Banaszak said. "If only 200 to 300 people decide to vote in November and it's defeated, let the chips fall where they may."

Council took no action on a possible referendum.

When the 2007 budget was passed, council had intended to hire a police officer for 40 hours a week and designate a second officer to work for 12 hours a week. Now, Banaszak suggested using the 2 mills to increase the current police department to 40 hours per work of total coverage.

"The money earmarked for the police force will be used for the police force," he said. "We are not likely to hire a full-time officer. The money will be used to get 40 hours of coverage."

Currently, the borough's two police officers work a total of 24 hours a week.

Stevens said Banaszak could not promise that the extra money would be used for the police department. The committee will study the "need and cost of maintaining the borough compared with the viability of the police department."

At a public meeting last year, about 80 percent in attendance said they were willing to pay higher taxes for additional police.

"Now, the 210 (names on the petition), if accurate, shows they don't want a full-time police department. We should put the money in a savings account to buy a new truck," Stevens said.

In other business:

= Code Officer Joseph Siwula will send notification letters to residents who do not shovel their sidewalks in a timely manner. Solicitor Mark Rowan will examine whether the borough or PennDOT is responsible for snow removal on the borough's half of the Everson Bridge.

= The 300 block of Maple Street is a snow emergency route. Vehicles must be moved when snow needs to be plowed.

= Council voted to pass a clean air initiative for Centennial Park. The resolution, developed by Steps for a Healthy PA, bans smoking. The resolution has no penalties. Banaszak said he hopes that signs, which will be placed at no cost to the borough, will prevent people from smoking in the park.

= Three council seats are open this year. Election petitions are available at the borough building and must be returned by March 13. Stevens and John Szolek will not seek re-election. Randy Smith's seat and one auditor's seat are also up for re-election.

= High school seniors may apply for the Robert C. Evans Foundation competitive scholarship, worth $1,000. Contact the borough building for an application. The application is due May 1.

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