The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

November 16, 2013

Union County police and fire forces ask Bucknell to ante up

LEWISBURG — Two Union County organizations charged with the safety of Bucknell University want the school to begin donating directly toward their operations.

The Buffalo Valley Regional Police Department, which has spent 500 hours responding to matters involving students this year, recently asked Bucknell to contribute to its coffers.

University spokesman Andy Hirsch said Bucknell representatives had a separate but similar meeting with officials from William Cameron Engine Company, which provides fire and emergency medical services to the campus.

Police Chief Paul Yost, Lewisburg Mayor Judy Wagner and East Buffalo Township Supervisor Thomas Zorn, all members of the police commission, met with university officials Oct. 29, Yost said.

Commission officials presented the school with cost-analysis data, specifically the police force’s operating costs and amount of time it spends responding to student incidents.

The 500 man-hours at Bucknell is about average for the year to date, Yost said.

Regional police track all man-hours because its division of power is done by “police protection units,” a calculation of the number of hours in a year a police officer works.

It’s how Lewisburg and East Buffalo Township, the two municipalities the police serve, determine their respective financial obligations. East Buffalo Township pays for about 52 percent of the police protection units and Lewisburg, 48 percent.

Because Bucknell University spans both municipalities — about two-thirds of the campus is in East Buffalo Township, Zorn said — it takes man-hours from each side of the power pool.

Bucknell does not pay real-estate taxes to East Buffalo Township, Zorn said, because it is all nontaxable land there, exempt under tax code for being an educational institution.

In the past, Lewisburg received an annual, negotiated contribution from Bucknell, Councilman Trey Casimir said. At the time, the borough also had its own police force.

“The understanding was (the money went) to expenses incurred by the police that were associated with Bucknell,” he said, such as events or additional security as well as incidents involving students.

The agreements ended when the borough helped Bucknell obtain a $1 million loan from the state to refurbish and open the Barnes & Noble at Bucknell University bookstore downtown.

“It was structured such that the borough was recipient of the loan,” Casimir said. “So Bucknell pays that amount, which rises year to year, to pay off that loan.”

Right now, the amount is about $50,000.

Casimir said he had voted against the move because “the loan will be repaid but the expenses will continue.”

The loan still has about 20 years left, Casimir said, adding that “(Bucknell is) a great asset to community and we’ve worked to deepen and further the relationship with them.”

Hirsch confirmed in a statement that several university representatives met with Yost, Wagner and Zorn to discuss the Buffalo Valley Regional Police Department’s budget, its role in policing areas in Lewisburg where Bucknell students live, and its interest in the school providing support for the police department’s budget.

“They were both good discussions,” Hirsch said of the meetings with the police commission and William Cameron officials.

William Cameron Chief Steve Bolinsky could not be reached for comment by deadline Saturday.

William Cameron EMS is the primary ambulance service of the area and the main moneymaker for the engine company. During last winter’s House Party weekend, 15 Bucknell students were taken to Evangelical Community Hospital for treatment for alcohol overdose. Bucknell has since canceled House Party weekend and is making other moves to address campus drinking.

Bucknell is “proud of our strong partnerships, and we appreciate their taking the time to talk with us about these specific matters,” Hirsch said of the meetings.

Yost told East Buffalo Township supervisors that Bucknell’s reaction to considering financial support was “positive.” Bucknell officials were “receptive” in the Oct. 29 meeting, he said, and both sides “will continue their dialogue.”

A report on Bucknell’s website, “Fast Facts: Economic Impact in 2009-10,” states Bucknell makes payments to Lewisburg and East Buffalo Township in lieu of tax contributions. Zorn said there is no line item in the East Buffalo Township budget for contributions from Bucknell. Same goes for Lewisburg, Casimir said.

The report also states that as a large Valley employer, Bucknell paid taxes of $1.6 million to local governments during the 2009-10 academic year.

n Email comments to esocha@dailyitem.com.

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