Nazareth Mayor Fred Daugherty, Jr. has withdrawn his recommendation to buy coverage from Colonial Regional Police, leaving members of Nazareth Borough Council an open-ended recommendation "to seek a partnership where a professionally managed and trained police department can be developed."
The final person to speak at Monday night’s Nazareth Borough Council meeting, Daugherty read a letter to a standing room only crowd -- a letter Council members had already heard in executive session, Daugherty noted.
“Over the past several months there have been numerous questions regarding my recommendation to this Council to contract police services with Colonial Regional Police. In that time there has been speculation and conjecture on the part of many ill informed and uninformed people on the subject. As the original proponent of the idea, let me address the issue now.
“It has become patently clear that contracting police services from Colonial Regional Police will not happen. I stand by my recommendation that it would be the best alternative to what we now have, but because of several reasons I am withdrawing my recommendation.”
The reasons behind Daugherty’s decision:
- Members of the Colonial Regional Police Commission -- which consists of two representatives each from Lower Nazareth Township, Bath and Hanover Township, Northampton County -- have made it known that they do not want to be contractually obligated to hire Nazareth’s current full-time police officers, according to Daugherty. If a Nazareth officer were hired, Daugherty added, the rank the officer holds with Nazareth would not transfer to Colonial Regional.
- The Nazareth Borough Police Association has “chosen to ignore multiple invitations to discuss the future of the Nazareth Borough Police Department. This fact in and of itself has virtually created a stalemate situation for making any progress toward a solution,” Daugherty said.
- The third and final reason, Daugherty explained, deals with public safety. The contracts for Nazareth’s full-time officers do not expire until the end of 2012. Because of the year-long delay, coupled “with a burgeoning and ever-more violent set of crimes and drug issues,” Daugherty believes his “recommendation creates an untenable situation.”
Just before Daugherty read his letter, council members unanimously agreed to extend and approve Police Chief Thomas Trachta’s contract on a month-to-month basis. Trachta’s contract is set to expire at the end of 2011.
According to Council President Dan Chiavaroli, Trachta’s contract will remain the same as his current contract, excluding a pay raise he received at the beginning of 2011.
“I feel like I just got hired as a seasonal worker,” Trachta said at the end of the meeting, adding that he believes the borough needs “to connect itself with a township," whether it be Upper Nazareth, Bushkill or Lower Nazareth.
Chiavaroli continues to think contracting services from Colonial Regional “would have been an excellent option,” but discussions with the Police Commission never moved the mayor’s recommendation forward. Negotiation talks have never taken place, Chiavaroli said.
“I looked in my inbox and found an e-mail from the mayor that’s dated February of this year,” Chiavaroli said after the meeting. “We are at the same exact point we were at in February.”
Chiavaroli said he’s not against the merging of police departments.
“We need to share the expenses of a police chief, detectives and sergeants [with another municipality],” Chiavaroli said. “If we choose to keep our own department, it would mean an excessive tax increase.”
In his letter, Daugherty briefly discussed the cost of running a police department with 10 full-time officers, saying the average cost of one full-time officer is about $100,000 per year.
“Having two police officers on duty 24 hours per day, 365 days per year would require a department composed of no less than 10 patrol officers,” Daugherty said. “When adding the additional costs of supervision, administrative and other semi-fixed expenses to that would create a police budget of nearly [$1.4 million].”
The mayor ended his letter with an open-ended recommendation.
“Finally, my recommendation to council is to seek a partnership where a professionally managed and trained police department can be developed,” he said.
Despite a contract that will be renewed every month, Trachta said, “I will continue to serve the residents of Nazareth to the best of my ability with the resources I have.”
He later added, “I feel it’s an honor to work for the citizens of Nazareth, and I will not let them down.”