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Hamiltonban disbands police department

Richard D. L. Fulton

(12/3) The Hamiltonban Township Board of Supervisors voted unanimously at their November 29 workshop to disband their now-unionized township police department, and will rely on State Police for police protection.

At the same meeting, sole township police Officer Juanita Larmer was placed on "paid administrative leave" effective November 30. Larmer would also retain full benefits during the leave until her position ends December 31.

The board commented in a statement issued November 30, "This was an extremely difficult decision for the board. However, in light of the township's budget status, the board concluded that this action was necessary in order to avoid a property tax increase."

Board of supervisors Chairman Robert Gordon told the News-Journal the reasoning behind the disbandment was because, "We don’t have the money to pay for the department anymore unless we raise taxes It’s a matter of funding."

"To continue to operate the police department in 2013 would require a 32 percent increase in property taxes. Furthermore, we expect that the costs to operate the department will increase significantly in the next few years," the board concluded.

Officer Larmer was hired on September 8, 1999 as a part-time township officer under township police Chief Louis Whittington. When Chief Whittington left the force on May 16, 2003, Larmer was made the full-time officer-in-charge. The township has no other police officers in its department.

Larmer presently receives $17.25-an-hour in pay (averaging $35,000 annually), plus benefits, under the township police contract, which was due to expire December 31.

The supervisors voted unanimously at their October 2 meeting to not renew the current contract with the police department because the officer had recently voted to join Teamsters Union Local 776, and the board expected a union contract would replace the expiring township one. A draft union contract was received by the township since their October vote, but is was never signed.

Gordon stated that the unionization issue was not related to the board’s decision to end the township police department. "We had to look for someplace to cut. We decided that was the place to cut and let the state police cover for us."

The State Police currently provide 128 hours-per-week police services to the township, while the township police have been providing coverage the remaining 40 hours per week, according to the township. State Police coverage of the township became effective November 30. Residents are asked to dial 911 in case of emergency.

No fate was determined regarding the 2005 Ford Explorer patrol car that served as the township’s sole police vehicle.

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