Snyder, Tyrone at odds on police agreement

TYRONE – Two steps forward and one step back.

That’s the dance Snyder Township and Tyrone Borough officials have been doing since November concerning Tyrone police jurisdiction, with township supervisors voting Monday to approve their own version of a police agreement and rejecting suggested changes by Tyrone solicitor Larry Clapper.

“It’s pretty vague,” said supervisors President Charles Diehl of Clapper’s proposal, adding that Snyder Township solicitor David Pertile’s version, drafted after a Jan. 17 township meeting, included property tax ID numbers and is more specific.

Diehl also said he doesn’t like some of the changes proposed by Clapper, including one that would allow police to respond to calls even for incidents not on school- or hospital-owned property.

Clapper had explained at a Feb. 12 borough meeting that he wanted officers to be able to respond, for instance, to a call if students were off-campus on a field trip.

But Diehl and Supervisor James Burket disagreed, voting for their own version of the agreement. Supervisor Robert Nelson was absent with the flu.

The supervisors did like some of Clapper’s ideas, such as adding the rights of ingress, egress and regress, allowing Tyrone police to use township roads to enter, leave from and return to the borough.

Clapper also had changed the title from “Police Service Agreement” to “Grant of Police-Specific Jurisdiction Agreement,” citing the need for specific and clear language, since the agreement eventually will become an ordinance as per state law regulating intermunicipal cooperation.

Stephen Gildea, Tyrone Hospital’s CEO, predicted that, since both parties understand the importance of protecting the hospital and school, they will reach an agreement soon.

“I think it’s going to come together,” he said.

Gildea has been present at every meeting to represent the hospital and see the agreement through to passage, even offering to compensate the borough for services at last month’s meeting.

Borough Council members said they appreciated the gesture but agreed not to seek reimbursement from either the school or hospital, with member William Latchford saying he was not interested in “making money off of” either organization.

The police force accounts for 35 percent of Tyrone’s budget this year, according to a letter sent in November by Tyrone Mayor Bill Fink to Diehl.

Fink wrote the borough would spend more than $800,000, with another $4 million expected to be paid over a four-year collective bargaining agreement.

According to Fink’s letter, with police being such a large portion of the budget, the borough couldn’t afford the added financial risk by responding to backup calls from state police outside the borough.

Eventually, Fink dropped the request for financial compensation from the township and told supervisors in January that he was looking only for a jurisdictional agreement.

“I’m not asking for money from Snyder,” he said.

Township officials are adamant that financial compensation will not be part of an agreement between the two municipalities.

Borough officials have learned that Tyrone’s police force is covered by state liability insurance when responding to state police requests, although the borough would be on the hook for related costs if an incident resulted in a police officer being injured and unable to work.

Such costs include hiring and paying a replacement officer.

Despite the risk, borough Police Chief John Romeo said officers receive between 65 and 70 calls per year from Snyder Township and have a duty to respond to state police.

“We’ve always responded and backed up” state police, he said.