Salisbury Press

Thursday, June 4, 2020

SALISBURY TOWNSHIP BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 by PAUL WILLISTEIN pwillistein@tnonline.com in Local News

Second detective, new police officer requested in 2014 budget; 'Casino Corridor' enforcement, case backlog, LVH calls cited

On the west is Lehigh Valley Hospital - Cedar Crest.

To the east is the Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem.

In between are major thoroughfares, including Interstate 78.

It all adds up to more work for the Salisbury Township Police Department.

Salisbury Township Police Chief Allen W. Stiles made his case for the promotion of a police officer to detective and the hiring of a new police officer as 2014 township budget talks continued at a special board of commissioners meeting Nov. 7.

"I still feel we need more officers. I know it's tough times to raise taxes," Stiles said. "It's a quality of life issue."

"To the person who has his car broken into, that's the most important thing to them," Stiles said.

The township has a backlog of crime cases being investigated.

"If I was one of the people who were burglarized, I would want you to be there," Commissioner Debra Brinton said.

The cost estimate for Salisbury to promote an officer to detective and hire an additional officer is about $90,000 annually.

"These are fixed costs," Salisbury Township Manager Randy Soriano said of a possible police hire.

"You must have the revenue in place. The only reliable source not dependent on the economy is real estate."

The hiring of an officer could result in a township municipal tax increase, from 1.42 mills to 1.50 mills, which would generate approximately $106,000 in additional general fund revenue.

Based on the township average $208,000 single residence property assessment, it could cost a taxpayer $16.63 more annually.

"I think that's a well-spent $16," Commissioner President James A. Brown said.

"I live in Salisbury Township. I don't want taxes to go up. But I don't want to lose services," Brinton said.

With the deadline looming next month for approval and passage of the 2014 budget, commissioners decided to hold an additional workshop meeting to discuss the budget 7 p.m. Nov. 14 in the township Administration Building.

Commissioners will also meet 6 p.m. for a budget workshop and 7 p.m. for the meeting Nov. 21. Township meetings are usually 7 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays of the month, but the 2014 budget and the Nov. 28 Thanksgiving Day holiday spurred the changed meeting dates.

Commissioners plan to hold only one meeting next month, 7 p.m. Dec. 19, when a vote on the budget is expected. The fourth Thursday of the month is Dec. 26, the day after the Christmas holiday.

The most recent budget discussion took place during workshops 6 to 7 p.m. and 7:30 to 9 p.m. Nov. 7, before and after the township meeting.

For 2014, township revenue is projected at $6,431,560, yet department requests are $6,904,657, with the result approximately $473,000 in requests exceeds revenue.

Soriano has gone through the budget and recommended reductions in many departmental budget requests.

The proposed 2014 police department budget is $1,874,000, including $1,590,700 in wages. Capital costs are $410,230 in equipment and purchases, including replacement of two vehicles, at approximately $33,100 for a Charger and $25,000 for a pickup truck.

Also, under the proposed police capital budget are fire inspector uniforms; tactical bulletproof vests, at about $2,000 each; personal bulletproof vests, at about $1,000 each, and thermal imagining system, at a cost of about $6,800.

Commissioners also discussed $40,000 budgeted for a 60 foot by 16 foot by 14 foot pole-barn building to be erected in 75-acre Franko Farm Park in eastern Salisbury to house public works vehicles. The cost does not include a pad for the building.

Two bays of the public works department garage are being considered to be used to store police evidence and materials.

"We are starved for space," Department of Public Works Director John Andreas said.

Commissioners also discussed a proposed purchase of a Ford Explorer for the planning and zoning department, and $50,000 for a camera, alarm and audio-visual system for the Municipal Building.

Stiles advocated adding an additional detective position and replacing the officer position with a new hire because of increased traffic arrests in the so-called "Casino Corridor," an increase in homicides and department calls at Lehigh Valley Hospital - Cedar Crest.

"I would like to promote an officer to detective to assist us with our investigations," Stiles told commissioners.

"Last year, we didn't hire a new officer. We hired a replacement," Stiles noted.

If the promotion takes place and an officer is hired, Salisbury would have a 20-person township police force. The Salisbury Police Department now has 19 officers, including Stiles. There are 17 full-time police officers and two part-time officers.

Detective Kevin Kress is now the only township police detective. The township has had one detective for about 35 years.

In addition to Chief Stiles, there are three sergeants, one school resource officer and 12 patrol officers.

Commissioner Joanne Ackerman asked, "Has that created an impact on your department?"

Replied Stiles, "We created a Casino Control Corridor," referring to East Emmaus Avenue, East Susquehanna Street and Broadway in the township.

Lehigh County gaming revenue grants from Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem has allowed the township to pay for officer's overtime, purchase equipment and, this year, buy a new stealth patrol car.

"We are impacted by the Sands because of the traffic," Stiles said. "We do heavy enforcement of that area [the Casino Corridor]."

Officer Bryan Losagio was appointed traffic safety coordinator in September. Since that time, Losagio has issued 311 traffic citations, including 77 citations from Sept. 16 to 30; 208 citations in October, and 26 citations Nov. 6 to 13.

Traffic citations given out by all township officers are 1,929, for 2013, as of Nov. 6; and 1,298, for 2012; 1,379, for 2011; and 753, for 2010.

"We are getting our message out. It's not a good place to speed," Stiles said of Salisbury.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has withdrawn funding for township traffic enforcement along Cedar Crest Boulevard in the township.

"Our efforts have reduced crashes [along Cedar Crest]," Stiles said. "PennDOT has said that's no longer a dangerous artery. They now are going to designate the Casino Corridor. So, there will be no loss in funding.

Stiles said he's often had to allocate an officer to Lehigh Valley Hospital - Cedar Crest. "That's a town a city in itself," Stiles said. "That's taking more of our time. And it's going to continue.

"They are not citizens, but they are residents while there," Stiles said of LVH employees and visitors. "That population [at LVH] is larger than the entire township population."

Asked Ackerman, "Is the hospital aware of all your added duties?"

"Yes. I've actively made proposals for them to fund us," Stiles replied.

"How is that going over?" Ackerman asked.

"They [LVH] don't want to do that," Stiles said.

There have been two homicides in the township, one of which is going to trial in Berks County. "It's an anomaly to have one homicide [in Salisbury]," Stiles said.

"It took so many hours to investigate and prepare for the court," Stiles said of the homicide cases.

"We are not a department that goes out and just writes reports. We investigate them," Stiles said.

In comparison, nearby townships and boroughs, including Upper Saucon, South Whitehall, Upper Saucon, Upper Macungie and Emmaus, have from two to four detectives. "They all have more [detectives] than we do," Stiles said.

The Salisbury Township Police Department has a backlog of 499 open cases.

"If you have another detective, will you decrease those [open cases] dramatically?" Commissioner Vice President Robert Martucci, Jr. asked.

"Yes," Stiles answered.

Stiles, Kress and Sabo said new mandates are requiring more office work by officers. These include FBI reports, State Police reports and audits.

It's estimated that Sabo spends 50 percent of his time and Kress 25 percent of his time on paperwork.

"Every case generates a lot of work," said Stiles. "Hours and hours of gathering evidence. Putting it in computer files."

Kress presented copies of a report to commissioners, detailing the documentation, procedures, record-keeping, evidence storage and other duties required of police departments. "That's a list of administrative things we do before we lift a finger to patrol," Kress said.

"This is very helpful. I didn't know about all of this," Ackerman said.

Stiles offered to give commissioners a closer look at department operations, including a "ride-along" in a patrol car.

Stiles said Salisbury officers become long-term employees. "You can see our guys don't leave. When they come here, they stay," Stiles said.

It was noted even if the appointment of a second detective and the hiring of a new officer is approved, it could take well into the new year and possibly late summer, until the transition takes effect.

Salisbury had 10 full-time police officers in 2003, compared to 17 full-time officers in 2013.

"Over the 10 years, we have not seen any appreciable increase in tax revenue. On the contrary, we have seen some decreases," Soriano said.