By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — By all accounts, the merging of the Lewisburg borough and East Buffalo Township police departments into the Buffalo Valley Regional police force has been a resounding success — but there still is much to do administratively, two members of the department’s police commission said.
“Sometimes, I feel like pinching myself that we’ve finally done this after so many years of planning and talking about it,” said commission Chairwoman Judy Wagner, who is Lewisburg’s mayor. The good news, she added, is that the two forces merged seamlessly, without any interruption in service.
“That was to be expected,” Wagner continued. “Over the years, we’ve seen a great deal of cooperation between the Lewisburg and East Buffalo departments. We were familiar with each other, so I wasn’t surprised when Chief (Paul) Yost was able to meld the two together. He’s done a magnificent job. We did it, and we did it right.”
Commission member Tom Zorn, an East Buffalo supervisor, agreed with Wagner, adding, “I actually think that residents in our two municipalities are getting better police coverage than when we had two individual police forces. So operationally, as I look back at the regional force, we’ve exceeded expectations.”
The regional department began operations on Feb. 6, 2011.
Although the concept had been kicked around for decades, it took a regional police study conducted by the Pennsylvania Governor’s Center for Local Government Services to get the ball rolling. That original study included East Buffalo, Kelly Township, Lewisburg and New Berlin.
Following the study’s release in 2007, a committee was formed by the municipalities. Over the course of the next four years, the panel studied the regional report, conducted public meetings, designed a formula cost plan, analyzed costs and made site visits to other regional departments.
Last year, an intergovernmental agreement was signed by East Buffalo and Lewisburg to form the Buffalo Valley Regional Police Commission.
Administratively, Zorn said, the recently agreed upon 5-year contract with the officers was a great accomplishment. “That’s something we don’t have to worry about for a while,” he said. What remains is some administrative work in merging the two police pension funds.
Wagner said she’d like to see the police commission draw up a plan for the future. “Where are we going to be in five years,” she said. “How do we see ourselves? I don’t much like flying by the seat of the pants.”
Both Wagner and Zorn said they’d like other nearby municipalities to consider the services that are available if they joined the regional force.
“Consolidation is the way to go,” Wagner said. “And regionalization of resources is certainly the wave of the future. It’s also looked on favorably by both the federal and state governments.”