Updated 6 hours ago

The Township of Hempfield could pay nearly $ 7 million for state police coverage as part of Governor Tom Wolf's budget proposal.

Hempfield is one of the 2,500 municipalities in Pennsylvania without a local police department.

The proposed fees are calculated on a sliding scale and depend on the number of inhabitants in each community, ranging from $ 8 per person for a community of less than 2,000 to $ 166 for municipalities with more than 20,000 inhabitants.

"This has put a strain on their ability to respond in these areas because the state police take on a significant additional responsibility," Wolf said in his proposal. "To remedy this inequality, the 2019-2020 budget provides for a fee for every resident of a municipality without local police coverage."

Officials estimated in 2017 that providing services to municipalities with no full-time staff cost the state police nearly $ 600 million. This equates to about $ 234 per capita in these communities. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Economic and Community Development, 25 municipalities in Westmoreland County are dependent on state police, as well as three in Allegheny County.

This year, the goal is to add 100 more officers to the state police. There are still months before the plan is negotiated with the Pennsylvania General Assembly, which will begin after the June 30 deadline set in the budget.

In Hempfield, which has 42,300 residents and is Pennsylvania's largest municipality without its own police force, the $ 7 million cost is almost half of its budget.

Hempfield's director, Jason Winters, said that the county's supervisors should reopen the discussion on creating a local department or completely rework their budget to reflect fees.

Four state police vehicles patrol regularly and answer calls inside Hempfield.

Like Hempfield, the Township of Derry relies on state police to cover 14,500 residents. Under the proposed plan, public servants are expected to pay more than $ 1.68 million.

"I am totally against it," said Vince DeCario, Township Supervisor and President-in-Office. "I think everyone pays taxes, state taxes, it's already your help for the state police."

As a rural community, the Township of Derry should not be compared to areas like Hempfield regarding police coverage, DeCario said.

Unity Township and South Huntingdon also rely on state police coverage.

As the third largest municipality in the state without a local police department, Unity is expected to disburse more than $ 3.6 million for its 22,000 residents.

South Huntingdon is expected to pay $ 42 per person for a population of 5,600, or $ 235,200.

Supervisors from Unity and South Huntingdon could not be reached for comment.

In the northern part of Westmoreland County, the Oklahoma borough has a population of less than 1,000 and is fully covered by state police.

"We do not really need a police force here," said Mayor Don Emerick. "We do not have so many crimes. I am not in favor of charging municipalities. "

Emerick said council members could add potential $ 8,000 to their budget, but "it would have an impact."

East Pittsburgh, in Allegheny County, recently dissolved its police department, a conversation that lasted for years and that intensified after the fatal shooting of June 19, unarmed, by Antwon Rose II , 17 years old.

The department had retention problems before the dissolution, leaving four part-time officers and one chief for about two months. At the time of Rose's shooting, the department counted twice as much money and paid the officers about $ 15 an hour.

East Pittsburgh now has temporary coverage of state police coverage as it works with neighboring municipalities to create a regional police force.

With a population of 1,500, East Pittsburgh officials are expected to pay about $ 12,000 to cover state policing costs in Wolf's proposed budget.

Although Hempfield officials are worried about the proposal financially, Winters said similar plans had been presented in recent years and had not come to fruition.

In the 2017-18 budget, Wolf proposed to municipalities without a police service to pay $ 25 per capita. But the plan did not succeed after being rejected by communities across the state.

The charges would have generated about $ 30 million for state police, which would have allowed the state to hire 100 new agents.

Wolf tried again and did not manage to put the $ 25 fee in the 2018-2019 budget.

Megan Tomasic is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Megan at 724-850-1203, mtomasic@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MeganTomasic.