Maxatawny Township has filed a lawsuit in Berks County Court against the Berks-Lehigh Regional Police Department, Upper Macungie, Topton and Lyons over the distribution of the regional police force's assets as it's disbanded.
The lawsuit, which contends the parties have not been able to come to an agreement as to the distribution of assets, dominated a Berks-Lehigh Regional Police Commission meeting Monday night at Fire Station 56 on Schantz Road.
Representatives from Maxatawny and Upper Macungie pointed fingers at each other, accusing each other of dragging feet when it came to determining how equipment, payrolls, pensions and other benefits would be handled when the regional police department is disbanded at the end of the year.
Upper Macungie Commissioner Sam Ashmar, in response to the lawsuit filed Nov. 1, rattled off a timeline going back to 2008, when Upper Macungie first considered withdrawing from the commission. He presented dates that he said the township attempted to meet with commission officials to discuss withdrawal.
His list was challenged by Maxatawny’s attorney, Jill Nagy. Also voicing opposition to Ashmar’s presentation was Maxatawny Commissioner Dave Hoffman. Throughout the meeting, Hoffman made comments suggesting Upper Macungie controlled the proceedings, with the three other municipalities unable to have any say in the outcome of the dissolution.
Some of the areas discussed included:
. How to dispose of property, including vehicles, handguns and shotguns, radio equipment, uniforms, office equipment, furniture and other items. Maxatawny proposed appointing a receiver (someone with custodial responsibility of the assets), while Upper Macungie, Lyons and Topton voted to have the property appraised and auctioned off. A motion was made and passed that allows Upper Macungie to purchase up to 24 Glock .22 firearms used by the officers who will or who have transitioned to the Upper Macungie police department, Ashmar said.
. Purchase price of vehicles. Upper Macungie, Lyons and Topton voted to sell to Upper Macungie the K-9 unit vehicle for no more than $9,000. Ashmar presented prices quoted in several trade-in books, including Kelley Blue Book, and said if the township purchased more than one vehicle, he would want prices based on values from the same book. This met with some opposition from Hoffman, who hinted the township might try to low-ball values.
. End-of-year schedules. Berks-Lehigh Police Chief Roger Heins voiced concern for officers' safety during transition. He wanted to know about insurance coverage when his force is disbanded as of Dec. 31 and Upper Macungie becomes its own entity on Jan. 1. In the end, both parties agreed upon overlapping schedules to provide protection for the outgoing officers.
* How paperwork would be handled, particularly who would be responsible for providing accident and other reports, when requested, when officers need them for court appearances.
* How phone inquiries would be routed to the appropriate person or place, whether a temporary employee would be hired for that purpose, or if a voice mail system would be established.
Ed Early, who chairs the Berks-Lehigh Regional Police Commission and the Upper Macungie supervisors, said Wednesday some of the issues may have been resolved at the meeting. He said Maxatawny supervisors will likely decide at their next meeting whether to continue with the suit or to look for an extension.
He said he disagrees with the lawsuit's contention that the parties have not been able to come to an agreement over distribution of the regional police force's assets, saying it's still "a work in progress."
The Berks-Lehigh police commission had voted unanimously to dissolve the regional police department as of Dec. 31, after Upper Macungie supervisors voted to leave the Berks-Lehigh force and create its own as of Jan. 1. One of the biggest points of contention had been that Upper Macungie paid the lion's share of cost for the regional police force but only got a 25 percent voting interest.