HONESDALE — At the start of Monday's Honesdale borough council meeting, Councilman Bill Canfield threatened to resign, citing the ongoing issues with police coverage as the crux of his reasoning.
In Canfield's opinion, it is not sustainable to rely upon Pennsylvania State Police coverage during periods of unfilled borough police shifts.
Canfield said he does not believe council has been doing enough to rectify this situation.
“At this time, I do not support the present council, with the exception of Bob Jennings, moving forward,” Canfield stated.
The councilman called for members of the public to speak up and make their voices heard.
“Unless I get some support from this community, I'm gonna walk away because I can't work like this,” he stated.
Canfield excused himself after his speech stating he would return at the June 19 meeting to deliver his letter of resignation.
He made public apologies to Michele Minor Wolf, Sue Erb and Police Chief Rick Southerton before departing.
Council President Mike Augello let Canfield's comments stand at the meeting.
Augello later stated: “Mr. Canfield is entitled to his opinion and we believe the facts will support the council's decisions.”
On the police matter
During public comment, borough resident Clifford Lowe addressed council regarding his concerns about the police department.
Lowe suggested pulling local applicants from borough residents and having the borough pay for them to become police certified.
Lowe mentioned sharing Canfield's belief that relying on State Police coverage is not the best option.
He also mentioned a reference Canfield had made earlier in the meeting about funds being diverted to the pool instead of other areas.
Councilman Chris Murray said these statements are “erroneous,” reaffirming that all funds used for pool restoration are being raised by the Honesdale Lion's Club and are for pool restoration use only.
Any funds used in the operations of the pool were budgeted items reserved for the Parks & Recreation department by law.
In responding to Lowe's suggestions, Southerton explained to Lowe that “We do have a program where we have paid people to take Act 120 in the past.”
Southerton also mentioned there are three applicants seeking positions with the department.
“The problem is,” he said, “you can't just hire everybody, you have to be a little bit selective.
“...We're in this position now where we're going from a full-time police department to now needing three times as many part-time officers.
“It's hard to get that many qualified part-time officers in this area.”
In his response to Lowe, Augello stated, “Our biggest problem is that no one wants to work in Honesdale Borough, we cannot find part-time officers.”
He added:“We have worked for two years getting every option that we could think of … that for one reason or another will not work.
“But the bottom line again is ... we are where we are because of the local prisons taking most of the Act 120 graduates as they'd rather work at S.C.I. Waymart or a federal prison.”
Augello stated it was great to hear about the three potential applicants.
To clarify about one cause of the lack of officers, Southerton added, “The Sheriff's Department, they're offering full-time employment to guys, so they're going there to get full-time employment and they're working for us part time.”
He added, “A lot of the part-time officers we do have right now are shared full-time employees of the Sheriff's Department.
“That's where they get their benefits, that's where they have to be, and that's where their first loyalty is.”
Southerton explained that a recent policy at the Sheriff's Department calls for its employees to not work another job eight hours before their shift so as to eliminate on-the-clock fatigue as much as possible.
“... that removed an entire pool of people we have available to us,” said Southerton.
“So its not like we're not trying,” he added.
Further discussion of the police coverage issue was brought up by Victims Intervention Program Executive Director Michele Minor Wolf during public comment and will be covered in a future edition.