Taxpayers are often forced to reach deeper into their pockets when government leaders are unable or unwilling to address and resolve the operational issues they were elected to administer.
It appears this will be the case in two Union County municipalities after members of the Lewisburg Borough Council brushed off repeated requests for intergovernmental negotiations and directed a Pittsburgh law firm to file a lawsuit against East Buffalo Township in an ongoing dispute over funding the police department they share.
Attorney Brian Gabriel of the Campbell Durrant Beatty Palombo & Miller law firm in Pittsburgh, filed the lawsuit in Union County Court on the borough’s behalf, alleging the township had no “factual or equitable basis” when it reduced its municipal contribution for the Buffalo Valley Regional Police Department by 2 percent in the past three years.
In its legal complaint, Lewisburg — which funds 48 percent of the police budget — challenges its neighboring municipality’s decision to reduce its share of funding from 52 percent to 50 percent.
“Defendants are harming the financial condition of the police department by causing it to be unfunded by the outstanding 2 percent of expenses,” Lewisburg’s attorney writes in the lawsuit filed in Union County Court.
The township seeks to split the municipal contributions for the police department 50-50, citing higher crime rates in Lewisburg and the need for an even police presence in each community.
The borough has demanded that the split remain at 52-48, the funding levels set when the regional police department was created more than eight years ago, on March 15, 2011.
Last month, members of the Lewisburg Borough Council voted to take the matter to court.
In a letter to Lewisburg’s lawyers, Pete Matson, the township’s solicitor, repeated the township’s offer to meet in a small group, three members from each side.
“The parties still need to meet and discuss the entire agreement as there are inconsistencies and language that need to be addressed and clarified by an amendment to the Intergovernmental Cooperative Agreement,” Matson wrote. The township requested the names of borough representatives who could attend a meeting such as this.
Lewisburg’s lawsuit against its neighboring, adjacent municipality was filed on Monday. Lewisburg Borough Council President Kathy Morris declined comment.
East Buffalo Township Supervisor Chair Char Gray said, “We’d all hoped it could be resolved without going to court.”
We suspect that many taxpayers in both municipalities, those who will be paying the legal expenses to resolve this matter in a courtroom rather than a meeting room, feel the same way.