LAFLIN — The borough council approved an ordinance Tuesday, giving the go-ahead for a study regarding the borough’s possible participation in a regional police force. Many citizens who attended believe the four council members who voted “yes” had made up their minds prior to the meeting.
Former councilman Tony D’Eliseo told the council members, “I’ve talked to some people and they believe that Laflin is already all in, not just participating in the study.”
Councilman Carl Yastremski, the sole “no” vote, said he believed Laflin residents could simply not afford the cost of sustaining a regional police department. Since 2014, the borough’s police protection has been provided by the Pennsylvania State Police at no cost to the borough.
“Initially, there would be grants that would minimize costs during the first year,” Yastremski said. “But by 2018, the cost of regionalizing would be $216,000, which would mean a significant increase in taxes for our residents.”
Council members Lisa Natt, Glen Gubitose, Sandra Falcone and Jamie Andrews disagreed, emphasizing that passage of the ordinance would simply provide an opportunity for further study.
“If I voted the other way, there would be people screaming at me anyway,” said Natt. “This is just doing our due diligence.”
Scott Seeherman, also a former councilman, pointed to the words “to join” in the ordinance.
Seeherman believes it’s the intent of the council to ultimately become part of a regional force which would include Laflin, Pittston Township, Jenkins Township and Dupont.
Tuesday’s debate has its roots in Laflin’s recent history. In 2014, the council members dissolved their police department over strong objections from Mayor Dorothy Yazurlo.
Yazurlo concluded her opening remarks Tuesday with reference to councilwoman Jamie Andrews’ call to the State Police when several juveniles allegedly started a small fire at the baseball field near her home.
Andrews said State Police were unable to respond to her call.
Yazurlo emphasized a regional force would be better able to respond to such matters.
Resident Chris Kopko noted, “In the last two years before our police force was disbanded, 60 to 70 percent of our calls were being answered by the State Police anyway.”
Borough solicitor Steven Menn said passage of the ordinance does not indicate a commitment by the borough and is simply an opportunity for the council’s consideration of a regional force.