Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Exeter Township Supervisor Dona L. Starr has dispelled fears that the township is considering reducing its police force to help balance the budget.
“There’s one, two, three, four board members who have never even mentioned laying off police officers,” Starr told a crowd of officers and police supporters at a special budget workshop meeting. “I believe that the Exeter Township Police Department is the best in the county, and I want to keep it that way. I’m not willing to lay off any officers. I’m not willing to make any cuts.”
Starr’s comments at Wednesday’s meeting came after statements by Supervisor Kenneth A. Smith, who said he would not be opposed to reducing the police force to make up a $230,000 shortfall in the 2013 budget.
That number is down from an initial budget gap of about $400,000 in August.
City Council on Monday agreed to hire 12 probationary police officers to get the police force, gutted by retirements, up to its authorized strength of 168 officers.
The new probationers, who entered the Reading Police Academy earlier in the day, are in addition to about two-dozen new officers who just completed or are still in field training.
But even those won’t be enough to keep the force at full strength, with more retirements expected this year, much less get the force back to the more than 200 officers it had several years ago.
Meanwhile, council awarded a design contract as the city gets started on replacing the first equipment at the wastewater treatment plant on Fritz’s Island, required by state and federal environmental agencies in 2004 as part of a court-ordered consent decree.
Williamsport is having a bad week. There have been four shootings since Sunday. Yesterday afternoon shots were fired between two vehicles a few blocks west of Williamsport General Hospital. One person was wounded and taken to a local hospital.
Sunday night a nonfatal shooting occurred in Memorial Park. Early Wednesday morning a second nonfatal shooting occurred on West Fourth Street. Wednesday night a Philadelphia man was killed along High Street.
Police and city officials and trying to come up with a solution for the recent rash of gunfire. Police say the shootings are not random.
Some demographics on Williamsport courtesy of City-data.com: 2009 population estimate 29,304, land area is 8.88 square miles, number of police officers 53, City-data 2009 crime index was 322.1 (low), 2009 estimated median household income $25,101, 2009 estimate per capita income $16,442 and the unemployment rate as of April 2010 was 10.4%.