By Edward Lewis
The Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
Two municipalities facing budget shortfalls are exploring options to ease their finances by cutting police services.
Edwardsville Mayor Bernard "Ace" Dubaskas said council members are talking about reducing the number of full-time officers, while Laflin council members are considering contracting with a neighboring municipality for police protection.
Cutting police services is not a new concept for cash-strapped municipalities.
Warrior Run disbanded its police force in favor of contracting police services from Nanticoke two years ago.
Pringle suspended its tiny police force in 2010 in favor of a three-year contract for police services from Kingston.
Talk in Edwardsville
"They're talking about it; we're trying to work things out, hopefully," Dubaskas said. "The big part of it is money. In any small town, you're going to have budget issues at any time of year."
Edwardsville's police department is staffed with four full-time and six part-time officers.
"It's terrible when you have to cut into police," Dubaskas said. "It's one of your costliest areas in any town's budget. If you want the best, you have to pay for the best and we've got the best. They do a great job for us."
Dubaskas cautioned that council is only talking about cutting its police force, and no official action has taken place. Council President David Stochla did not return a call seeking comment.
If the plan gains acceptance, it would not be the first time Edwardsville council has reduced its police department in favor of saving its budget. In 2000, two full-time officers were laid off, leaving the borough with five full-timers.
And, in 2004, the number of police shifts was reduced from 33 to 28 per week.
Edwardsville has a population of nearly 5,000 residents living in 1.2 square miles, according to the municipality's website.
Police or Infrastructure
Laflin Borough Council is exploring a major change: Disbanding its police force of three full-time and seven part-time officers in favor of a contractual agreement with Pittston or Jenkins Township for around-the-clock protection.
"The reason, obviously, is purely financial," Council President Paul Benderavich said. "With the state of affairs with the economy, health care has gone through the roof, and our general liability jumped $19,000 in one shot."
Council will discuss the option at its Monday meeting, Benderavich said. He cited the borough's need for infrastructure repairs, such as sewer replacements and road resurfacing, as the reason why council is looking at cutting police services.
"We need about $4 million in sewer work and road paving, and we have no way of paying for it," Benderavich said. "We don't feel that is the answer, going to the taxpayers and asking them to pay more taxes.
Laflin is comparable in size to Edwardsville at 1.4 square miles but has nearly 3,500 fewer residents. While Edwardsville draws a commercial tax base from two large shopping districts, Laflin is a bedroom community with 637 homes.
"We average one 911 call a day; that equates to 365 calls a year," Benderavich said. "We had eight criminal arrests a year. Our total budget is $780,000 and from that, $330,000 goes to police. And every year it increases."
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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