Chambersburg Borough Council heard police and fire reports on Monday night

September 26 — The Chambersburg Borough Council heard a number of reports last night and awarded the Mike Waters Citizen of the Year Award. 

The Mike Waters Citizen of the Year Award was given to Joanne Cochran of Keystone Health. 

Allen Coffman, borough council president, said, “I think she’s well deserving of having that award. She started her service I guess it was under the name Keystone Health when it started in 1986. So she’s been at this a long time and built quite an organization from that.”

As budget discussions continue, reports to council are made from various departments. One of the reports heard last night was from Chief Ron Camacho from the Chambersburg Police Department. 

Camacho said at the meeting, “I’m not going to come in and ask for officers because I understand where we’re at with the tax and our cap and the millage, but what I am going to ask the council is for you to try to do something about that because we need it. We need that battle fought.” 

Coffman said, “Well, the county obviously is going to have to do this. The last reassessment in Franklin County I believe was done in 1961. We are the longest standing county in the state of Pennsylvania that has not done a reassessment. It’s important to communities around here because we are limited by state law to 30 mils of tax and we are approaching that limit now and the Chief knows it well. We’ve had these discussions with him and he understands that. So something has got to happen because with the rate of inflation that we’re seeing today, who knows what it’s going to be over the next year or two? We could eat up the balance of our 30 mils pretty easily over the next couple of years. I don’t know what Jeffrey’s (borough manager) is going to recommend for this year. I have no idea if there’ll be an increase or not with the millage, but that’s for him to tell us when he gives us his report, probably in November of this year. But yeah, the Chief is aware of it and I guess what he’s saying is, I do need more people, but I don’t know how you folks are going to pay for them. I think that’s what he’s saying and he’s being very reasonable about it. But his requests are very, very valid, too.” 

Michele Jansen of NewsTalk 103.7FM added, “The county has told us it’s gonna be a wash even if they do a reassessment. Yes, some people are not being assessed fairly. They said some will go up, some will go down, and some will remain the same. I’m confused. Is the borough paying more? Are we’re talking about borough taxes and is there some area of the borough the chief knows would significantly add to the tax base if there was reassessment?”

“I don’t know,” Coffman said, “But I’d like someone to explain to me how you can say that you put a building up today, and for tax records, you converted back to the value that it would have been in 1961. That doesn’t make any sense at all to me. The reassessment needs to be done. If you look at Cumberland County to the north of us, they’ve done it. If you look at Shippensburg, I believe and I’m not sure about this, but I believe that part of Shippensburg that’s in Franklin County is almost already at their limit and the Cumberland County side is something like one mill of tax. So they’ve got from one mil to 30 mils that they can increase through the future. We’re almost at the end of it and we won’t be able to go anywhere in the next couple of years. It just has to be done. I know they’ve kicked this thing down the road long enough. It needs to be fixed.”

The police department report noted that the CPD is part of only 11 percent of police departments in the state that are accredited. 

Coffman said, “If you look at the United States, there’s only 18 percent in the United States that are accredited police departments. So we’re part of that 18 percent. The other thing he talked a good bit about was traffic. We’ve had a lot of discussions about traffic and to me part of that mix as well as having people to do it is to get the state to pass the radar law, which they’ve been sitting on for at least 30 years. That needs to get fixed, too. I don’t know what the big political deal is over radar. The other thing real quick about the police department is their rate of solving crimes.”

The state average is 26 percent. The CPD is at 43 percent on solving crimes. 

Coffman said, “So they’re solving almost twice as many as what the state average is. The fire department, the Chief brought to us what they’re working on. We’ve got some serious problems with volunteer service, not only here, not only in the county, but in the state. The cost of replacement equipment, getting applicants to be firefighters. The number of people that apply and the number of people that show up, it’s about 25 percent that really make it through after they’ve said that they’ll apply for a fire department job.”

The Parking, Traffic and Streetlight committee also submitted a report. 

Coffman said, “In the future probably traffic lights will be on the list for Orchard Drive and Mill Road, South Main Street and Industrial Drive and Lincoln Way East at Limekiln near Plasterers.”

A comment from a citizen suggested it might be a good idea to have microagression training for borough council. 

Coffman said, ‘I have no idea where that conversation was directed. I don’t know whether it was directed directly to me, or whether it was against the council as a whole. I don’t know. I don’t know what the purpose of all that was. It would have been nice to have a little more of an explanation. I don’t know what this would mean without knowing what was expected.”

Jansen wondered, “To me, it was a sort of passive aggressive way to express unhappiness with any criticism of the Southgate project. I wish they would have been a little bit more clear about what was the reason or what they think are the microaggressions that need to be addressed? I feel like it was just that you shouldn’t criticize the Southgate project. We know somehow that all got tied in with the LGBTQ+ ordinance they wanted to pass. All of a sudden we have emails going back and forth that include about race and about the Southgate project. So I have a feeling that was a subtle way of just criticizing anyone who would criticize the borough’s Southgate project, but that’s just speculation a bit on my part. I don’t know why else she would have said it.” 

Pat Ryan of NewsTalk 103.7FM said, “That’s other people’s money here that was overpaid for, number one. Nobody is going to buy it, number two. It is a turkey and I’ll be happy to be the microaggressor on this to a touch here, but we told you about this. Now we’re in the ‘how did we get here moment’? This thing is going to be an anchor around the borough’s neck.”

Jansen said, “There’s good reasons of course to develop Southgate and I’m sure this person had those things in mind. It’s just the idea you cannot hit people over the head like a bludgeon with this because of your concerns about racial equity. We still have to be reasonable and look at how money is being spent and this is the wise way to do it. Because you won’t even solve those equity problems that you believe exist if you don’t spend money efficiently and wisely.”

Coffman said, “I wish they would have been more specific about what these microaggressions are because quite frankly, I have no idea where that conversation is going.”