“We need our police officers.”
That was the consensus among the 50 or so residents who gathered at the Sykesville Town Hall for a public meeting on an ordnance to abolish the borough police department.
Hosted by Sykesville Borough Council, the first part of the session featured comments from residents who signed up to speak. Each speaker had three minutes, but some took longer and some asked questions from the audience during the hearing which lasted for more than an hour.
Resident John Sedor presented a petition with 360 signatures in favor of keeping the police force in Sykesville. He was followed a bit later by members of the Sykesville Ambulance Department. They stated that the police department has helped to save lives. Ed Grasso said, “It’s comforting to know they’re there.”
Sykesville Fire Chief Kevin Yamrick spoke in favor of keeping the police department.
“We’ve had a great relationship with Earl (Campbell),” he said. “I think it would be a mistake to give him up and give the police department up and rely on something you can’t offer from a further distance.”
Chief Yamrick was referring to the response time it would take for the state police to arrive on scene. Corporal Ted Race, patrol supervisor for the State Police in DuBois, said that while the state police are willing to offer any help needed, he could not guarantee any hours dedicated solely to Sykesville since his department covers zones in Clearfield and Jefferson counties.
Some residents offered the idea of becoming part of a regional police force, possibly combining with Reynoldsville and other area municipalities. State Representative Cris Dush was at the meeting and said he would provide whatever help was needed if the borough would decide to go that route, but with Harrisburg facing a budget crunch, additional state monies for police departments would not be available.
Sykesville business owners also attended the meeting to offer their support for the police department. Denise Laukitis of Fox’s Pizza Den said its been her observation that Officer Campbell has a great rapport with what she called the “bad kids in this town.” She said, “I just think it would be foolish to even consider giving up the police officers.”
During the discussion, borough solicitor C. J. Zwick pointed out that to keep the police department, taxes would have to go up.
“If you want it, you have to pay for it,” he said.
Many residents, however, voiced their support for a tax increase. Some asked why small increases weren’t made in previous years to keep up with the need. They even asked if a question about raising taxes could be placed on the ballot in the upcoming election. Council president Michele Yamrick said that would be investigated.
During the council comments, member Ron Park said that when it comes down to paying for it, senior citizens and others with fixed incomes have to be considered as well.
“We’re talking about potentially a 4 or 5 mil tax increase,” he said, “and there are people in this town who cannot pay that.” He added that it was not “an easy decision for any of us.”
For her part, Mayor Gail Cunningham, who is in charge of the police department, said she was against the ordinance to abolish it, drawing applause from the crowd.
After the presentations, a roll call vote was taken on the ordinance with four against it, including council members Yamrick, Elaine Fike, Nate Alvetro, and Tim Brown, and three voting for it, including council members Park, Don Zimmerman, and Deneise Strouse. The ordinance to abolish the department was defeated.
Once the vote was take, the town hall emptied, and the council went into a regular meeting.