Carlisle Borough Council focused on public safety issues first at a Wednesday workshop meeting at which there were discussions on topics ranging from highway signs to a new look at the rental ordinance.
The council decided to hire two additional police officers in 2019.
At last month’s budget hearing, Councilman Sean Shultz suggested doing a study first to determine how many officers the department should have, but estimates of the cost of such a study came back at between $20,000 and $30,000.
Shultz also said additional information from Chief Taro Landis helped build the case for the new officers.
“There’s sufficient justification for those additional police officers,” Shultz said.
The cost of bringing the officers on duty has been figured into the advertised 2019 budget, Shultz said.
The borough also decided to take a multipronged response to issues raised in the recently released report from a state commission that had been established last year to bolster fire and rescue services. The report includes recommendations such as increasing state-directed recruitment and retention efforts and increasing state support for tax and tuition breaks for volunteer firefighters. The recommendations also suggest that the state streamline and incentivize regionalization projects, helping to merge local fire services into larger units that are easier to manage and finance.
Representatives from Union Fire Company, Carlisle Fire & Rescue Services and Cumberland Goodwill EMS were at the meeting to discuss issues with volunteer recruitment and regionalization.
Recruitment has been a challenge for both Union and Carlisle Fire & Rescue. Josh Bramble, assistant chief of Union Fire Company in Carlisle, said volunteers used to fight for spots on the fire apparatus when it went out and would be disappointed that they didn’t have as many hours on the schedule as they wanted. Now, it takes several emails to get people on the schedule.
“This is a growing issue. We’re not getting ready to go over a cliff, but we are in a steady, downhill acceleration,” said Mike Snyder, president of Carlisle Fire & Rescue.
Bramble said Carlisle has an opportunity to be ahead of the curve and set an example for other areas in setting up a regional system to assist struggling fire companies.
“It’s very important that you maintain a regional mindset because that is going to be the future,” Snyder told the council.
Snyder said the companies will need start talking to their neighbors about how they can cooperate with each other, and that it’s a process that can start early next year.
Mayor Tim Scott said the topic of regionalization will be on the agenda for a regional government meeting the borough hosts in January.
The borough will also advocate for the legislation at the state level to address issues facing volunteer fire companies as well as set up a working group with representatives of fire companies in and around Carlisle to discuss potential avenues for regionalization.
In other business:
Borough council plans to review its rental ordinance. Councilwoman Deb Fulham-Winston said there’s nothing fancy about what the borough wants from the ordinance. It wants to look at major issues related to property maintenance that could eventually come before the codes department anyway.
A committee formed last year has recommended that the borough pursue potential expansion of the historic district, but the shape and extent of that expansion has yet to be determined. Borough Manager Matt Candland said the next step, should the council choose to take it, would be to take an inventory to assess what areas would be eligible. Grant funding may be available to assist with the cost of such an inventory, and $18,000 has been set aside in the 2019 budget as a local match to any such grant.
The borough council approved a construction agreement with Norfolk Southern on the Carlisle Connectivity Road Improvement Project. Mark Malarich, director of public works, said the railroad added to the scope of the work on railroad infrastructure connected to the project raising the cost from an anticipated $150,000 to about $500,000. He said the budget for the project can handle the increase.
The borough also voted to renew its lease for the Carlisle Historic Downtown at the Pennsylvania Turnpike exit sign. The lease carries an annual fee of $3,693.60 which will be shared as follows: CAEDC, $1,846.80, Downtown Carlisle Association, $923.40 and the borough, $923.40, which comes out of the parking fund.