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Will Breakup of Berks-Lehigh Regional Police Force End Up in Court?

Maxatawny Township contends in a lawsuit that member municipalities of the Berks-Lehigh Regional Police Department cannot agree on how to divvy up assets, now that Upper Macungie will have its own force. A Dec. 7 hearing was set.

 

Maxatawny Township contends in a lawsuit that member municipalities of the Berks-Lehigh Regional Police Force cannot agree on how to divvy up the police department's assets, but Upper Macungie Supervisor Sam Ashmar says "that wasn't ever true."

As Upper Macungie gets ready to start its own 28-member police force on Jan. 1, the township now finds itself in a potential legal battle with Maxatawny, which filed the suit Nov. 1 against the regional police department as well as its other member municipalities of Upper Macungie, Topton and Lyons.

"Maxatawny is not playing nice in the sandbox," Ashmar said earlier this week, as the township waited to be officially served with the suit. 

"I think Maxatawny used very poor judgment in using taxpayers' money...when all the parties were trying to work this in an amicable, responsible fashion."

He said Upper Macungie has sought an orderly liquidation, with appraisals, to assure that the commission gets the best price for the regional police assets for the benefit of all its member municipalities. 

Maxatawny argues in the civil suit, however, that the member municipalities are "deadlocked" in how to dispose of the regional police department's assets. It proposes that a receiver (someone with custodial responsibility of the assets) be appointed. A hearing had been set for Dec. 7 in Berks County Court.

With the suit pending, the Berks-Lehigh Regional Police Commission met last week and voted on some distribution of assets, including the sale of the K-9 unit and firearms to Upper Macungie.

The commission made enough progress that Maxatawny could vote tonight, Nov. 29, to either continue the court hearing to a later date or withdraw the complaint altogether. Maxatawny Township manager Justin Yaich said in an email Wednesday that Maxatawny supervisors will "likely" act tonight, even though the lawsuit is not on their agenda with their joint meeting with the municipal authority.

Yaich defended Maxatawny's decision to bring the suit and seek a receiver, saying the Berks-Lehigh Regional Police Commission had failed "up until last week" to make any progress. "After the motion was filed they got moving and made some decisions, essentially doing what the motion intended to make happen," he wrote.

Maxatawny supervisors meet at 7:30 p.m.

The Berks-Lehigh Regional Police Commission had voted unanimously to dissolve the regional force as of Dec. 31. The vote followed Upper Macungie's decision to leave the regional force and create its own department as of Jan. 1. One point 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.  

Check back with Patch for updates on this story.

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